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Strange lands 

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UCT7 4375 
HAS MAY r 1980 

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Strange Lands 

Friendly People 

William O. Douglas 

New York 


Copyright, 1951, by William O. Douglas 
Printed in the United States of America 

All rights in this book are reserved. No pan 
of the book may be used or reproduced in 
any manner whatsoever without written per 
mission except in the case of brief quotations 
embodied in critical articles and reviews, 
For information address Harper & Brothers 
49 East 33rd Street, New York 16, N. Y. 


Library of Congress catalog card number: 51-11$ 




Middle East 



Foreword xi 


Terror in Greece 6 

jo Walking Man 19 

4 Picture Code 30 

Azerbaijan 38 


Kurdish Nationalism 56 

")nce a Kurd Always a Kurd 65 

ons Are an Ornament 72 

I New Deal for the Kurds 84 

^dependence Is Preferred 87 

Am a Lur 95 

"he Six Poorest of Us 98 

utcher of Luristan 104 

\un Play at Kuhdasht 1 10 

*he Bakhtiari Save the Constitution 1 14 

Goat Does Justice 120 

n Audience at Oregon 124 

zrsian Hospitality 1 3 o 

Goatherd Sparks a Revolt 133 

?y My Mother s Milk" 138 

Trust in God, but Tie Your Ccmel" 142 

he Ghashghais on Horseback 145 

he Ghashghais on the Move 151 

s an Old Ghashghai Custom 154 


viii Contents 


24. If s a Small World 

25. The Poisonous Bite of the Goat 

26. Cedars of Lebanon 

2 7. The Agrarian Problem 

28. Zayim 

29. Jebel el Druze 

30. Kemal Djumblatt 

31. Siblene the Magic of Ownership 


32. Hattin 

3 3 . Josef and Fouda 

34. "Thy Faith Hath Made Thee Whole" 

35. Moslem Women 

36. SukhneWs Arab Refugees 

37. The Eternal City 


38. Into Israel -from the East 

39. Israel Experiments 

40. "From Dan even to Beersheba" 


41. A Girl and a Basket 

42. India and Asia 

43. Nehru s Welfare State 

44. Jai Hind 



Feeling that readers of this volume would be particularly in 
terested in the Iranian (Persian) scene, the publishers are 
including a special section of pictures of that area (taken by 
the author and his friend Elon Gilbert). 

Frontispiece William O. Douglas and his son, Bill Jr. 

The following photographs will be -found in a group 
facing page 1 12 

Ghashghai mansion and gardens, Shiraz 

Old home of Ilkhan of Debukri tribe of Kurds, Bukan 

Nasser Khan, head of the Ghashghais, with the author on 

Namdam plain 

Ghashghais on fall migration, 1950 
Kurdish women, Debukri tribe, washing dishes in spring, 


Ghashghais on fall migration, 1950 
Amar Khan Sharifi, Ilkhan of the Shakkak tribe of the 


Lurs sacrificing steer in honor of arrival of the author 
A typical Kurd 

Ziad Khan, winner of the Ghashghai shooting contest 
Bakhriari performing a stick dance 
Thrashing floor, Azerbaijan 
Bakhriari women 
Morteza Gholi Khan Samsam, Ilkhan of the Bakhtiaris, 

Persian goats eat even the blossoms of thistles 


x Illustrations 

Russian border, Azerbaijan, Persia 

Persian girl gathering chips for winter fuel 

A street in a typical Persian village 

Typical tent and family of Bakhtiari goatherd 

The author and Ahmad Khan, chief of the Persia 

the Lurs 

The author interviewing Lurs of the Papi tribe 
Maku, Azerbaijan 


REVOLUTIONS ARE sweeping Asia. These revolutions, though often 
encouraged and directed by intellectuals, spring from the peasants. 
These people illiterate, with a life expectancy at birth of less than 
thirty years, and with a standard of living far below anything we 
in America know are on the march. This is nothing new; it is 
part of a historic process that Wendell Willkie faithfully portrayed 
a decade ago. 

These revolutions are important to the future of each of us. 

Asia is the great staging ground for Russian imperialistic designs, 
Asia holds the bulk of the world s population. Asia has the great 
wealth of the world. That wealth is mostly in untapped natural 
resources oil, rubber, iron, manganese, and other minerals. Asia 
is also rich in matters spiritual. The great religions of the world 
originated there. They supply today powerful fighting faiths among 
the peoples. While they are a cohesive force that holds large areas 
together, they occasionally pit one people against another in bloody 
combat. Asia is rich in literature and art; and it is steeped in mysti 
cism and superstition. Asia is also filled with unrealized ambitions. 

I wanted to see for myself the power and strength of Ask and to 
understand the forces that brew its revolutions. Therefore, I made 
two trips to that continent one in 1949 and one in 1950. In 1949 
my son, William O. Douglas, Jr., went with me. We visited Lebanon, 
Syria, Iraq, and Persia* Then we returned to Damascus and went 
south to Trans-Jordan and into Israel from the east. We saw 
all of the Arab world except Saudi Arabia and Egypt. On that trip 
we also stopped in Greece and in Cyprus. Those stops were merely 
layovers, going and returning to the Middle East. But we found 
Communist forces very active in each of those places; and what 
we discovered was so germane to the problem of communism in all 


xii Foreword 

of Asia that our observations in those countries have been included 
in this book. 

In 1950, accompanied by Elon Gilbert of Yakima, Washington, 
I traveled again through Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Persia; and in addi 
tion into India. Most of the time was spent in Persia and India. 

There was much forward planning necessary for each of these 
journeys details with which I have not burdened the book. The 
assembly of equipment, the obtaining of permits, the approval of 
the routes we wanted to follow were time-consuming. The various 
governments were most co-operative and gave invaluable assistance. 
And so it was that even though most of our travel covered the 
back regions of these countries, our arrival in the remotest village 
was often heralded several days in advance. We were generally not 
restricted in where we could go, in what we could see, or even in the 
pictures we could take. So if there are deficiencies in the reporting, 
the fault is not that of our hosts. 

The richness of the Persian material is due largely to the co-opera 
tion and help of my friend, the late Ali Razmara who was assassinated 
on March 7, 1951. He was Chief of Staff when I visited Persia in 
1949 and Prime Minister in 1950; and it was he who opened closed 
doors for me, even those along the troublesome Soviet border. 

I have not undertaken an analysis of the political forces in each 
of these countries. An American can easily miss the forest and see 
only the trees if he takes on that task. My undertaking was different 
and more limited. I have tried to present, through the medium of 
personal experiences, the main stresses and strains in the area. 

The characters whom I present are real, not fictitious. I have 
occasionally changed the locale of an event and given a character 
a new name to respect a confidence or protect a life. But the events 
and conversations and other facts are true to the best of ray knowl 

I have detailed these episodes in an endeavor to take the reader 
with me on these journeys, so that he may see and hear what tran 
spired. That is a difficult undertaking. Many of the experiences were 
for me almost beyond the reach of words. Some were filled with 
laughter and gaiety; others were crowded with tragedy and sorrow. 
Much of the material was highly charged with emotion. There were 
sometimes conflicting versions, compelling me to try to find out 
where the truth lay. The materials were so rich that I had to make se- 

Foreword xiii 

lections. My purpose was to include those episodes which portray- 
as fairly and objectively as possible the state of mind of the people 
whom I met, the extent of an evil, the nature and importance of a 
problem in a particular region. 

Both the 1949 and the 1950 trips brought the Moscow radio to a 
high pitch of excitement. I was charged with being the Big Devil, 
my son (who accompanied me in 1949) with being the Little Devil. 
That pleased my son. I was charged with being a spy for the Ameri 
can Army, with landing guns in the Persian Gulf, with laying plans 
for guerrilla warfare in the Middle East, with living in the tradition 
of the famous Lawrence of Arabia and the fabulous Major Robert 
T. Lincoln of more recent years. These accusations were to me very 
flattering. But there was one Soviet charge that cut to the quick, 
that hurt deep-down inside. It was the charge that I was a decrepit 

My trips included no mountaineering in the sense in which an 
alpinist would use the term. A few minor peaks were scaled; there 
was one walking trip; and there were several pack trips. By-products 
of these excursions were two collections of wild flowers one in 
Lebanon and one in Persia which I have presented to the Smith 
sonian Institution. 

The trips were unconventional. For the most part I kept out of 
the lanes of tourist travel. While I saw some of the sights and visited 
the capitals, I spent practically all my time in the mountains and 
villages, traveling on foot, by horseback, or by jeep and stopping 
to talk with most of the goatherds and peasants I met along the 
way. I usually carried complete camping equipment with me, put 
my bedroll down in or near a village at night, and sat up late dis 
cussing problems with the villagers or a local khan or kalantar. In 
a word, I spent most of my time with the common people of these 
countries, rather than with officialdom. 

Different people get different impressions of happenings and 
events. The best illustration comes out of the Middle East on 
the lips of Mullah Nasr-ed-Din, the twelfth-century legendary 
humorist of Persia whose yarns would have delighted Mark Twain, 
Irving Cobb, and Will Rogers. It seems that one day Mullah and 
his small son were walking down the road behind their donkey. 
The donkey, free of any pack, wandered lazily along nibbling as 
he went, while Mullah and his son sweated rather profusely under 


Communism South o f the 
Soviet Border 

SOVIET PROPAGANDA beamed to the Middle East exploits the news of 
the day. It emphasizes and exaggerates the weaknesses and frailties 
in existing regimes. It constantly reminds the natives of their 
grievances. It whispers suspicions about those in power. It charges 
America and England with having designs on every nation in the 
region, with planning to make each one a subservient colony in 
a krge imperial system. It represents the Soviets as the forces of 
Good in the world, America and England and all non-Communist 
governments as the forces of Evil. It identifies the Soviets with 
every minority cause, with every nationalist ambition. 

Soviet propaganda does not neglect the religious prejudices of 
the area. It reminds the Moslem population of their religious rival 
ries and conflicts, which in earlier days caused much bloodshed. It 
was a Pope who in the twelfth century summoned the Christian 
world to war against the infidel. Soviet propaganda today resurrects 
the specter of that bloody conflict and links the Vatican with Wall 
Street and Anglo-American "imperialists" in a conspiracy against 
the Middle East. 

The word-of-mouth campaign is even more insidious, The Koran 
has a strong flavor of Christianity: care of the weak, feeding the 
hungry, the giving of alms. Those who preach communism by 
word of mouth relate it to the Koran. When Marx and Engels 
wrote the Communist Manifesto in 1848, they dipped their pens 
in the New Testament and in the Jeffersonian philosophy to make 
their document popular among Europeans. Today in the Middle 
East the Communists use the same technique in preaching Soviet 

2 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

communism to those of the Islamic faith. They build elaborate 
syllogisms to show that their creed has support in the Koran. The 
Koran, they point out, was written in a different age and against 
the background of a different economy. If the Prophet were alive 
today, he would be against the "imperialistic" powers and the philos 
ophy of the few who exploit the many. The Soviet apostles point 
to chapter and verse of the Koran; they construe and interpret; 
they give sly twists to dogma and make it communistic. The Koran 
is susceptible to this perversion, for the idea of equality is strong 
in it. The Communists are clever and astute in giving the Book 
their interpretations; it takes a scholar of the Koran to reveal their 

The political program which the Communists advance in this 
region is usually straight reform. They do not explain or describe 
the Ctommunist system which they have designed for the world, 
but purport to stand only for honesty in government, land reform, 
ratiofiing of food, elimination of unemployment, education for the 
masses, a rising standard of living. They use democratic slogans and 
propose democratic programs to gain favor with the peasants. They 
won several European countries by pretending to be strong in the 
democratic faith. They hope to win the Middle East the same way. 
Once they assumed control of a nation, the pretense would cease and 
the country would be saddled with a dictatorship. Meanwhile they 
exploit the democratic cause and pose as the true champions of the 
people. The technique is not secret or mysterious. Stalin made it 
as plain as day in Foundations of Leninism and The Problems of 
Lmmsm* The process of taking over existing governments is called 
the botirgeois revolution; the process of converting that govern 
ment into a Communist dictatorship is called the proletarian revo 

This strategy shows great astuteness, for the Soviets could not 
win many converts in this region by preaching the tenets of com- 
nraiiffln. They can whip up discontent, create social disorder, and 
gms impetus tc* revolt. But the revolutionary feeling in these lands 
is basically HKxmpatible with Soviet communism. 

K These paople are mostly God-fearing folk, while communism 
is atheistic. 

2. They w^it civil liberties the right to vote as they choose, 

Ccmmwnizm South of the Soviet Border 3 

a free press, and free speech. Communism merely substitutes one 
group of armed political censors for another. 

3. The peasants of this area (and they compose the great ma 
jority of the population) want to be rid of their landlords; they 
want to own their own land. The Communists merely substitute one 
landlord (the state) for another. 

4. The people of this region are increasingly nationalistic; they 
want to be free of all foreign domination. Soviet communism would 
make them subjects in the Kremlin s colonial empire. 

The people know these facts. They do not always state them 
as precisely as I have done. But for these reasons they have a deep- 
seated and an almost instinctive reaction against Soviet communism. 
Soviet communism is a creed that is hard to sell in this region; It 
has few converts; the number of rock-bottom Communists between 
the Mediterranean and the Pacific is certainly less than one-tenth 
of i per cent. Today they are mostly underground. They meet 
secretly; there are three at a meeting and a meeting lasts perhaps ten 
minutes just long enough to exchange confidences, bolster up cour 
age, and decide on. the party line. Being underground, they use the 
whispered word to stir discontent; at night they write messages on 
walls and distribute pamphlets. When I was in Tehran in 1950 Henry 
Grady had just arrived as American Ambassador, fresh from the 
successful project in Greece through which the Communist guerril 
las had been liquidated and the economy restored. In the mornings 
I would see on the outside walls of the American compound in 
Tehran, "Butcher of Greece." 

In 1951 after a religious fanatic assassinated Ali Razmara, Persia s 
Prime Minister, the Tudeh Party moved more and more in the 
open. Shortly before that time ten Tudeh leaders had escaped from 
Qasr state prison. Tudeh at once grew bolder and bolder, seeking 
to capitalize on the confusion that followed the assassination. It 
helped cause a mounting feeling against Britain and against America 
too. Britain had an unfair oil concession which it insisted the 
Persian government honor. In Persian eyes America stood behind 
the British and apparently supported that position. Sentiment for 
nationalization of the oil grew and grew. The Communists joined 
the Nationalists in sponsoring the program; they proclaimed them 
selves champions of Persian interests; they played on national heart 
strings; their support among the masses increased. The Persian 

4 Strm^e Lm4$ md Fritndiy Peapte 

Parliament, resentful of British and American policy and propelled 
by mounting public opinion, quickly nationalized the oil. Yet in all 
of the Majlis there was not a single Communist. Tudeh thereupon 
the prestige from that victor) to make more demands. It ob 
tained the rckase from prison of more of its leaders. On May 8, 
1951 it made further demands on the government: freedom for all 
parties; the end of martial law; release of political prisoners; 
of Communist China; the ejection of the American 
mlkary Its demands ended by declaring that Persia "will 

not allow its children to be sacrificed for the interests of Britain 
and America.** 

Thus do Cotmrtynists in the Middle East actively align themselves 
with nationalist ambsttoas and exploit every advantage that chance 
or political management offers them. 

The bulk of Soviet propaganda in the Middle East is by radio 
popular programs, geared to the prejudices and interests of the 
people of thi& area. The Russians do excellent intelligence and fur 
nish through their embassies and legations a wealth of current 
information. Their diplomatic staff at least in the lower echelons 
with the people In the coffee shops and at the crossroads, 
They know the pul&e of these nations and the character of propa 
ganda that will have the best effect. 

Radio propaganda h effective in the Middle East as it is here or 
in Europe. Arabs and Persians alike have radios. In the town of 
Khoy in northwest Persia (not far from the Russian border) there 
are forty thousand peopk and ckm to ten thousand radios (Ameri 
can made, mil on batteries). There are in fact some radios in every 
village ! visited; I saw them even when I was in the mountains with 
the tribes. The khans and kalantars (the chiefs and lesser chiefs) 
own of them. The hours when news is broadcast are known, 

and pc^pk gtther around to listen. Goatherds will even come off 
mountain to jptn the group. If they cannot leave their flocks, 
riiey will iad ma later m the day what happened. No matter 
how far 1 was frotn the nearest town, whether 50 mUes or 250 
no Iww remote I was in the mountains of the Middle 

East, I always heard before night the important news in the 
of the worid I disowned, cmmiy to my piwmK^ptiom, 
that flie pwurn of this area ait wdl informed on worid events. 

Communism South of the Soviet Border jr 

They know their own complaints; and they listen with an attentive 
ear to those who would remedy them. 

Their suspicion of Soviet communism is so great that a real pro 
gram of social reform would rob the Communists for all time of 
any popular following. Soviet Communists can get substantial ad 
herents only with a democratic program and then only if they have 
no political competition. Their great political success has resulted 
solely from those circumstances. They won in China against a 
corrupt and reactionary government which had liquidated the liberal 
movement. Those are the conditions under which Soviet communism 
threatens to win countries in the Middle East and southeast Asia. 
It is clear that it can win political victories in this region only 
when it operates in a political vacuum. 

As long as the political contest continues, existing governments 
must keep a firm hand on their army and police. Communism in ac 
tion practices terror with a religious fervor. 

L Terror in Greece 

IN THE summer of 1949 the Greek guerrillas were keeping Greece 
in turmoiL They were under Communist leadership and were well 
organized. The Greeks called them andartes or bandits. 

The core of the guerrilla army was the group of irregulars the 
Allies had armed during the German occupation. In December, 
1944, a few months after the liberation of Greece the Communist 
party withdrew from the Greek government and tried to seize it. 
From that time on it used force and terror in an effort to gain 
control of the country. 

In 1948 and the early part of 1949 the guerrillas held pockets 
throughout most of Greece a village and a ridge here; a port, a 
highway, and a mountain there. The dots on the army maps which 
marked their positions gave Greece the scars of smallpox. They 
covered the whole country and practically encircled Athens. 

The tactics of the guerrillas were terroristic. They burned and 
looted villages. They tortured prisoners, mutilating them and meting 
out a slow death. They abducted men, women, and children and 
forcibly recruited them into the guerrilla army. Over a period of 
two years they abducted close to thirty thousand people. They 
quartered themselves on tlje villages, forcing the peasants to feed 
and maintain them. 

These practices caused a great exodus from the hills and the out 
lying regions. Early in 1949 one entire village of three thousand 
people (men, women, and children) fled before the guerrillas. These 
peasants traveled for days through snow to reach Athens. Half 
perished on the flight. In the summer of 1949 nearly 700,000 refugees 
(about one-tenth of the total population of Greece) were piled up 
in Athens, being fed by American funds while they waited for their 
home areas to be freed of guerrillas. 


Terror m Greece 7 

The guerrilla groups, though widely scattered, were closely knit 
together by a system of communication and intelligence. Word was 
passed along by men on burros. The man who ran the coffee shop 
listened to gossip by day and shouldered a gun in guerrilla duty at 
night. The old lady who hung out washing in the morning laid land 
has taken the lead in forming a new party the Socialist party of 
ways, watched over bridges, and stood guard at outposts. These girls 
carried guns and wore daggers on their belts. 

When one saw these people, it was difficult to realize they con 
stituted an army whose command went back through numerous 
links to Moscow. They had no uniforms, no hats, no insignia. They 
wore peasant costumes, like any one of ten thousand villagers or 

The guerrilla army was a fluctuating group. Its size ebbed and 
flowed as a result of casualties, depletion through desertion, new 
recruitments. It was close to twenty-six thousand strong in 1948. 
When I visited Greece in 1949 it was down to about eighteen thou 

By then, many nests of the guerrillas had been ferreted out and 
liquidated. Attica and the Peloponnesus had been largely cleared. So 
had Thessaly. But in the north large portions of Macedonia, where 
Albania, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria border Greece, were still infested, 
with the guerrillas armed, trained, and supplied by their Communist 
neighbors. Russian boats were landing equipment for them at Al 
banian ports. The arms and munitions which the Russians furnished 
were mostly of German, Italian, and Czech origin. 

The proximity of Albania, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria to Greece 
had other military consequences. When the guerrillas were under 
hot pursuit, they often melted over the border of these neighboring 
states and thus eluded their pursuers. If the Greek Army were to 
cross the border, it would be an invader, and a serious international 
incident might result. Hence the problem of the Greek Army was 
complicated. The enemy became somewhat of a ghost army, melt 
ing away when going became difficult and reappearing from across 
the border with renewed strength a few days later. 

By the summer of 1949, Tito had eased the problem somewhat by 
closing the Yugoslavia border to the guerrillas. But Albania and 
Bulgaria remained as their base. 

The conditions of Greece had improved in other ways too. 

I Strmge Ijmds md Friendly People 

General Alexander Papagos (later to come into conflict with 
King Paul) had been put in charge of the Greek Arrny. He had 
rid it of inefficient officers and the contamination of political in 
fluence. When I was there his new policy \\as having an electric 
effect. The son of a prominent Greek had hired a tubercular hoy 
to take his Army physical examination for him. The new conscript 
was of course rejected. But a reviewing officer detected the fraud 
and Papagos ordered the boy shot. That was the end of special 
privilege in the Army. Papagos and the American military mission, 
headed by Genera] James A. Van Fleet and General Reuben 
E. Jcnkim, whipped the Greek Army into one of the finest. Henry 
Grady, the American Ambassador, bolstered the political front. By 
the summer of 1949 the tide had turned and the end of the guerrillas 
was in sight. 

I said that by the summer of 1949 the Greek guerrillas had been 
ki^eJy liquidated in southern and central Greece. That is true so 
far is orgtiiked and armed resistance to the central government was 
concerned There were many, however, who aided the guerrillas 
withimt bearing aims. How many Communists were in this civilian 
group no one knows, but the number was well over 150,000. Though 
the Girek Anny swepc on to victory after victory and cornered 
rise guerrillas in the mountains of Macedonia, a great many Com- 
nnmists remained behind to become whisperers of rumors and pur- 
vcyen f inteUig eticc to the guerrilla forces up north. 

One incident will illustrate the method by which the Communist 
Midergreitrid hi and around Athens operated during this period. 

1 was invited to a dinner at the home of the then Foreign Minister, 
Cotsstantm Tsaldaris. The dinner was at 9 P.M. That afternoon I 
went on a mocor trip with Mr. and Mrs, Robert G. Miner of the 
Amticm Embay to Sounkm on die southeast tip of Attica. We 
due bck it 8 PJMU But this was Saturday; and a series of 

The Gjnedks aw etwfiiisiastic vacationists. Tliey exploit a holiday 
m Oferiy and ttom^hly *s the British, When a week end arrives 
they pie into trucks, buses, tnd cam and head for die beach or the 
wtuwMwi The tftffie wm thkk die afternoon we crossed Attka. 
Duwws f tan wtre headed for the beetles. They were packed m 
cspoty and the pepk were staging plaintive Greek folk soisgs 
with beaimfu] harmony. 

Tenor in Greece $ 

This traffic slowed us. So did the pockmarks pounded in the black 
asphalt highway by German trucks during the occupation. So did 
the pedestrians. Attica is dotted with vineyards and olive orchards. 
The roads were filled with farmers, donkeys, and carts coming in 
from the fields. Geese, ducks, and goats, unconcerned with the 
honking of OUT horn, cluttered the village streets. The lead mines 
at Lavrion first started by the Romans were spewing traffic on 
the highway. Thus it took us nearly two hours to drive the forty 

We reached the ruins of an ancient temple of Poseidon shortly 
before sunset. There on limestone pillars Byron and other distin 
guished visitors had carved their names. Far below at the foot of a 
sheer cliff the Mediterranean pounded on rocks and filled the ruins 
of the ancient temple with a roar. 

A sirocco was blowing in from Africa; sand high in the heavens 
gave a haze to the sky. We sat at a table, brought out by a nearby 
innkeeper, and sipped the light resinous wine of Attica and ate 
canapes of rice and meat wrapped in spiced grape leaves. We talked 
mostly of Elijah, who, according to legend, built the temples that 
dot the hills of Attica. That venerable man, tiring of the sea and all 
sailors, put an oar over his shoulder, and started inland. Whenever 
he came to a place where someone asked him what the oar was, he 
knew there were no seafaring people in the vicinity. In celebration, 
he stopped and erected a temple at each such spot. That is why all 
the temples are on peaks. 

As we talked the sun set, turning the Mediterranean from aqua 
marine to deep purple. Clouds that had drifted up from Africa were 
streaked with rose, green, and orange as the sun touched the horizon. 
Now in the dusk they stood like a dark hulk of land against the 
southern skyline. 

We tried to race back to Athens but our return was even slower 
than our trip down. In each village the highways were crowded. 
The coffee shops that line every village street were packed. People 
strolled in the middle of the road; children played ball in our path; 
young folks gathered at a corner listening to a radio; at the edge of 
one square a peasant had struck up a lively tune on his flute while 
a lad danced to the music. Even though our driver was a demon at 
the wheel and loved to make people, goats, and ducks fly out of his 
way, he was slowed to a snail s pace. 

to Strange Lands $nd Friendly People 

As a result I arrived at the dinner at 10:30 P.M. an hour and a 
half late. As I walked into the Tsaldaris home, first Mrs. Tsaldaris 
and then several other women all strangers to me rushed for 
ward, with tears in their eyes, embraced me, and kissed me, uttering 
motherly words which, though Greek, were understandable. Sur 
prised and puzzled by this affectionate greeting, I worked my way 
across the room to Airs. Henry Grady, wife of our Ambassador to 
Greece, and asked her to enlighten me on the meaning of my wel 
come, adding, "It was most pleasant; but it has never happened 
before in all my life." 

She told me that an hour or so before dinnertime an unknown 
kdy, who seemed to be quite hysterical, had telephoned Mrs. 
Tsaldaris. She spoke in Greek and her conversation was broken by 

"I have bad news, Mrs. Tsaldaris," 

"What is it?" 

"It s about Justice Douglas." 

"What s wrong?" 

**He s terribly ill as a result of the accident." 

"What accident?" 

"He can t attend your dinner." 

**What happened?" 

After much sobbing the answer came, "Oh, it s just too awful to 
talk about." And die mysterious caller hung up. 

There were no state police to make an investigation along the 
highways of Attica. I could not be reached by telephone. When I 
did noc appear by 9 o clock, 9: 30, or 10, the telephone report loomed 
Itigor and larger and began to assume the stature of the truth. Offi 
cial Athens was on edge and under great suspense. When I at last 
walked into the drawing room alive and intact, it was as if the dead 

Thus did the Communist underground in Athens harass and worry 
QfcWdoiB. The cold war, the war of nerves, was carried even to 
tbe insignificance of my visit to Greece. 

I tomed the front lines of die Greek Army in the Vita and 
OS areas of West Macedonia. This is high, rough country 
gnnte cliffs and hills studded with pine and juniper and 
of the Wallowas of Oregon, There are mountain goats 

Terror in Greece 1 1 

on the ridges and spotted trout In the streams. I reviewed Greek 
Army battalions just before they moved across the valleys and skirted 
the cliffs in the valiant military operation that was to liquidate all the 
remaining guerrilla strongholds in Greece. I watched artillery duels 
from an outpost near the Bulgarian border, and heard the roar of the 
recoilless 75 $ echo from the disk-shaped ridge and steep cliffs of 
Mount Kamen. 

The hardest, most valiant unit in Papagos army was composed of 
eighteen thousand soldiers who two years before had been young 
sters with pro-Communist leanings. The Greek government had 
sent all such young men to Macronisos Island off Athens for a 
democratic indoctrination course. Here they had learned the glories 
of Greece, its history, its potential. They had been taught the rela 
tionship between religion and the dignity of man. In this school they 
had come to know the techniques of Soviet communism and the 
designs of Russian aggression. 

Large numbers graduated as vigorous exponents of a new Greek 
nationalism. Less than 5 per cent turned out to be incorrigibles or 
confirmed Marxists. 

The ones I met and talked with had seen the vision of a new 
Greece, the promise of a land of opportunity for all. They wanted 
to rededicate Greece to the ideals of political and religious freedom. 
Greece would be born anew. It would never be the tail to any 
kite Russian, British, American. The problem was to find work 
and employment for the surplus population of 1,500,000 people. As 
soon as Macedonia was cleared of guerrillas, Greece, with American 
help, would introduce vast hydroelectric projects. New industries 
would be established. In time all of Greece s people would have em 
ployment, the specter of starvation would disappear, and Greeks 
would not be lured Into the political slavery of a Russian satellite 
state. Soviet propaganda that only communism guaranteed work 
and bread for all would be disproved. 

This was their dream of a new Greece. 

Hundreds, however, had been converted to the Communist cause. 
I saw many of them (both men and women) in prison camps 
camps for the guerrillas who had been captured by the Greek Army. 
I visited one camp at Kozani on the Fiorina Plain in north central 
Greece a vast basin two thousand feet high, flat and fertile. The 

12 Strmge Lands and Friendly People 

prison camp, fringed by a scattering of locust trees, housed at that 
time 401 men and boys and 97 women and girls. 

Most of the women (77) had been drafted by the guerrillas. The 
other 20 had joined voluntarily. The most promising among them 
had been sent to Bulgaria for indoctrination courses in Marxism. 
After six months or more they were returned to Greece and assigned 
to military duty. Most of the women prisoners I met had carried 
guns and fought alongside men. Some with whom I talked had com 
manded troops. Others had worked on the supply lines of the guer 
rillas or had laid land mines for them or rendered other service. All 
of them had lived with troops, 

That association with men was a circumstance that made their 
rehabilitation in Greek society difficult. In Greece a girl is held to 
high standards of chastity. She is closely chaperoned and knows few 
of the social liberties American girls enjoy. A girl who had camped 
and marched with troops was therefore beyond the pale. I was 
talking with the wife of a Greek officer about the problem. She said 
it was one of the most difficult in all of Greece s history. "A girl 
who has served with troops," she said, "becomes a social outcast. 
Sic cannot return to her village. She cannot return to another vil 
lage, for every villager in Greece knows the private life of the great- 
grandmother of every other villager. We have no family secrets 

If these girls were to have a future, it would have to be found in 
krgc centers where they could be trained for housework, clerical 
work, or industry. That problem early became a main concern of the 
Greek government, for a person who is an outcast from society is a 
retdy recruit for the Communists. The problem was a considerable 
one since 35 per cent of the guerrilla army was made up of women. 
Accordingly rehabilitation homes and schools were established to 
care for these women and to train them for a new life. 

The grant of equality to women by the Communists was a revolu 
tionary measure. In Greece women do not vote, except in municipal 
decriom* In Greece women do not even sit in the sidewalk cafes 
widi their husbands, fathers, or brothers, or participate in the 
discussion of local and world affairs. They stay in the background, 
neither seen aor heard. 

This grant of ecpialky to women drew backhanded praise from 
some Greek officers. As one tough-minded general said to me, "The 

Terror in Greece 13 

women guerrillas are the hardest of the lot to liquidate or to cap 
ture." With a knowing look he added, "The female is the deadlier 
of the species." This was a devilish twist which the Communists 
gave the internal problems of Greece. By using women in the guer 
rilla forces and granting them equality the Communists introduced 
a divisive force in the nation. 

The women guerrilla prisoners were, indeed, proud of this recog 
nition. The comment of an eighteen-year-old girl was typical. She 
was plump and stocky, her hair was light brown streaked with gold. 
Her brown cotton stockings were full of holes; her full black skirt 
was torn and soiled. She wore a boy s jacket too tight to button 
and frayed at the sleeves. She spoke slowly, telling how the guer 
rillas had raided her village, left her parents behind, but taken her 
and the other young people off to a camp in the mountains. She said 
she was forced to fight that the guerrillas would have killed her if 
she had refused. (I later learned that 60 per cent of the women in 
the guerrilla army had been recruited the same way.) After she had 
finished I asked, "What do you think of the Communists now?" 

As she looked up there was warmth in her brown eyes. "I like 
my country the best. But there is one thing the Communists did 
they treated us girls the same as the men. They knew the things we 
could do." 

I found the same theme running through the talk of the other 
women. There was no doubt that the Communists had launched an 
idea that would spread silently to every home along the Mediter 
ranean. To these women there was one aspect of die Communist 
creed that was not evil. 

So far as appearances went most of these women were teen-agers. 
They were all of peasant stock strong and sturdy. But even the 
fifteen-year-old girls seemed middle-aged. They might have been 
women waiting at an employment office in Waterbury, Connecticut, 
or Schenectady, New York. The mark of poverty and hardship was 
on them. They stood dazed and bewildered. The weight of the 
world was on their shoulders. They were not only outcasts; they 
feared the prospect of trial for treason as well. 

There were older women too, bent under the load of this worry. 
One had three babies from six months to three years old; another, 
a little girl of twelve and a boy of four. The husband of one and 
the father of the other were with the p-uerrillas. Some of the women 

14 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

were old and decrepit seventy, seventy-five, eighty years old. I 
talked with one elderly, gray-haired lady who was as thin and gaunt 
as a scarecrow, and dressed in a coarse black dress with a black shawl 
over her head. Her teeth were gone, her mouth receded. Her profile 
was that of our Halloween witch. Her arms and hands were skin 
and bones, apparently too thin and fragile for any work. Yet when 
I asked, "What did you do for the guerrillas?" she proudly replied, 
"I laid land mines." 

It was a long, rambling story. She was a widow and penniless. 
Her sons had been killed by the Germans. Some guerrillas offered to 
pay her for board and room if she would cook for them by day and 
lay mines for them at night. The mines were laid in the roads lead 
ing up from a strategic valley. Her eyes lit up as she told how expert 
she had become at the task. This unknown, penniless person had 
been swept up in a movement and given recognition. I do not be 
lieve she had the slightest idea what being a Marxist entailed. She 
only knew that there were people to be fed, work to be found for 
the unemployed, needs of the peasants demanding attention and 
the guerrillas promised remedies for the ills. This was a cause she 
could serve; at last she felt a sense of belonging, of participating, of 
having a share in the life of her country. 

"Do you think I did wrong?" she asked with an imploring look in 
her gray eyes. "Will the judges order me to be shot?"* 

One nineteen-year-old girl represented the solid Marxist core of 
the female guerrillas. Like the aged widow she had been attracted 
to the guerrillas by the Communist propaganda of work for all. 
Neither she nor her family had had employment for months. There 
was no bread in the house. The central government was corrupt 
it didn t care what happened to the peasants. She and her family 
could starve so far as it was concerned. The Communists, she 
thought, had the answers to the problems of Greece. These were the 
ideas that poured out of her like a torrent. 

"I joined die guerrillas because they were on the side of the 
people," she said in a haughty voice. 
The guerrillas shipped her off to Bulgaria where she went to a 

* Through the year 1949 many thousand guerrillas were arrested or sur 
rendered. Of these die Greek court-martials tried 43419 men and 6,525 women. 
15,573 me n and 2,144 women were convicted, 5,466 men and 513 women being 
sentenced to death. Those executed by the end of 1949 numbered 2,618 men 
and 162 women. 

Terror in Greece 15 

Communist school for six months. When I interviewed her she had 
been with the guerrillas for three years and was a thoroughgoing 
Marxist. She knew all the answers; and they came from her lips in 
machine-gun fashion. She had a square face and as she talked of 
communism her jaw was set. Her fingers were blunt and coarse, 
her nails dirty, her hands hardened with toil. She stood with her 
legs apart, her hands on her hips. She defied the world. Her eyes 
blazed like those of a cougar at bay. She was proud of her creed; 
she stood ready to die for Soviet communism. 

"What position in the army did you hold?" I asked. 

"I was a captain." 

"How many troops did you command?" 

"Two hundred fifty men." 

"Did any of your men ever try to desert?" 

"Yes a few rats." 

"What did you do then?" 

"I would bring the deserter before my company. I would walk 
up to him and say You attempted to desert. Then before all my 
troops I would shoot him dead with my revolver." 

"Without a trial?" 

"That kind doesn t deserve a trial," she snapped. 

She was a tigress who would spit in the face of her firing squad. 

At Larissa on the plain of Thessaly, I visited a prison camp of 
1,932 prisoners, most of whom were men. The Thessaly plain lies at 
sea level and runs flat for miles. It is the bread basket of Greece; 
and this day it looked as neat as a garden. The prison camp was 
also neat-looking. The buildings in the camp had open sides like 
those in some of our county fairs and housed several hundred men 
each. The prisoners apparently expected an inspection, for their 
bedding and extra clothes were in neat piles and each prisoner stood 
stiffly. Some were men with criminal records who had sought new 
adventure with the guerrillas. Sixty per cent were youngsters who 
had been drafted by the Communists and whose faces were still 
bright and fresh. Some had enlisted to find work, to share in an 
exciting cause. Some of the older ones had joined to protect a son 
or a wife. And others of course were pure Marxists. These were the 
incorrigibles perhaps ro per cent who were kept in a separate build 
ing and heavily guarded. Their faces were hard, sometimes cruel. 

1 6 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

They reflected bitterness and despair. With one of these I had a 
ong talk. 

Dimitros was his name, and he came from Athens. He had had 
aniversity training in economics. He was tall, thin, scholarly looking. 
Thoughtful eyes were set deep under a massive forehead. All of his 
characteristics his sensitive face, his long thin fingers, little man 
nerisms that had an effeminate touch marked him as an introspec 
tive person. He had studied Marxism at length. There was at first 
much of it with which he did not agree. He long had some linger 
ing doubts. Those doubts centered on the loss of the great demo 
cratic traditions of Greece, should Greece become a Russian satellite. 
He talked with pride of Aristotle and Plato, how their ideas had 
enlightened the minds of men and eventually worked to free Europe 
from medievalism. He mentioned that Greece, though ancient, is 
relatively young. America had enjoyed its independence for fifty 
years before Greece freed herself from four hundred years of 
Turkish rule. He spoke eloquently of the great social reforms of the 
elder Venizelos (perhaps the greatest Greek statesman since Pericles) 
who, among other things, over thirty years ago rid Greece of share 
croppers and tenants, turned the peasants into landowners, and freed 
Greece from the scourge of feudal tenures. 

Then he dwelt at length on the institution of the coffee shop in 
Greece. These sidewalk cafes are the center of the intellectual life 
of each village. They are frequented by men only, as custom does 
not allow women to sit there. A man, however, may for a few cents 
buy a demitasse of coffee and a glass of water and sit at a table for 
hours on end arguing, listening, debating. Here all the news of 
the world is discussed and digested. Politics are bandied about. The 
problems of Greece are analyzed and solved. Public officials are de 
nounced and defended. Freedom of speech reigns supreme in these 
sidewalk cafes. 

"All that would be lost with communism," I said. "You could no 
longer criticize your government; you would have to cease denounc 
ing its programs and the activities of its officials. You surely must 
know that the Kremlin sanctions no dissenting opinions." 

He nodded assent. "That is what worried me," he added. "But I 
finally decided that those freedoms must be sacrificed." 


There was a long- silence as if he were steeling himself for the 

Terror in Greece /7 

answer. In a few minutes he stood up and drawing from some deep 
reserve of energy which set his eyes ablaze, he shouted: 

"Greece has run her course. She is decadent. She no longer has it 
within her to solve her problems. Her officials are self-centered and 
corrupt. They all have yachts waiting at the docks so that they may 
flee if real trouble comes. Our people talk aimlessly. Nothing is 
done. There is no work. Tens of thousands are unemployed. There 
is no bread. Severe steps are necessary. A powerful outside force 
one with a thundering voice and an iron will is needed to direct 
the people, to still dissension, to tell them what to do." 

"And to destroy the present democratic traditions of Greece?" I 

"Yes, to destroy them," he said in a hoarse whisper. 

"What you advocate is suicide national suicide; suicide on a 
grand scale; a cataclysm that sweeps to destruction the best in your 

There was now a fanatical look in his eyes, as if at last the man 
had transferred his own psychosis to all his people and made a grand 
compact with death. Beads of perspiration stood on his forehead and 
his voice had an exultant lilt as he cried: 

"Yes, that is it! Suicide! Greece will die through suicide, A tor 
rent of death will pour in from the north. It will overrun us, and 
destroy us. We will sacrifice ourselves in a great cause. We will 
die so that communism may reach the Mediterranean. We will find 
glory in death. Greece by dying will make its final glorious con 
tribution to mankind." 

Dimitros was trembling as he finished. He sat down, his head in 
his hands. I turned without saying good-by and walked through 
rows of silent prisoners to a high barbed wire gate that marked the 
entrance to the huge stockade. Suddenly something happened which 
proved that Dimitros, the psychopath, was a small minority among 
the guerrillas. 

As I reached the gate of the prison camp, a great chorus of male 
voices rose from the barracks. It picked up volume as hundreds of 
men joined in the singing. Soon it was louder than a dozen organs. 
The music welled up from the hearts of these guerrillas. It came in 
a tremendous crescendo. It rose higher and higher, then broke almost 
to a whisper. Then it came again like a torrent this time with a 

1 8 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

deafening roar. There was pride and confidence and challenge in it 
the exultant voices of men inarching to some glorious victory. 

When. the singing had started, my interpreter a Greek Army 
officer and I had stopped in our tracks. We both stood as if 
transfixed. As the singing ended with a sharp thundering clap, I 
turned to him and asked, "What was the song?" 

There was a note of pride in his voice and a visible straightening 
of his shoulders as he replied, "The song is entitled Greece Will 
Never Die. " 

2. Go Walking Man 

CYPRUS LIES like a deerskin on the Mediterranean, its tail pointing 
toward Asia. It is 240 miles north of Egypt, 60 miles west of Lebanon, 
40 miles south of Turkey. One hundred forty miles long and 60 
miles wide, it has a population of over 450,000 people. Of these not 
over 5,000 were Communists in 1946. Yet in that year their party 
carried 55 per cent of the votes in the municipal elections, electing 
mayors in four of the six cities and in five of the most important 
towns. By 1949 the Communists had dropped to around 3,000 in 
number. But they Controlled about 40 per cent of the vote, electing 
mayors in three of the six cities and in two of the most important 

We learned in Cyprus how so few could control so many. Our 
research project bore cloak-and-dagger aspects; we ended interview 
ing Communists in dingy rooms over perfume shops. 

Cyprus has been under British rule since 1878. England rules 
it as a colony today. The people have a voice in municipal elections; 
but they have none in the central government. England is in control 
of the police force. 

England got Cyprus in a curious way. She made a convention with 
Turkey to oppose a Russian advance into Asia Minor. By that con 
vention she was given the right to govern Cyprus. It remained, 
however, Turkish territory until England annexed it when Turkey 
joined the Central Powers in World War I. 

I had remembered Cyprus as the home of Aphrodite, goddess of 
love; the place where Paul converted Paulus to Christianity; the 
scene of Shakespeare s Othello-, the place where Richard the Lion- 
Hearted married his betrothed in 1191 on his way to the Crusades; 
the island long ruled by the Templars. But I was to learn that 
Cyprus was also a pawn in the politics of the Mediterranean. 

20 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

Cyprus, populated by Greece in 400 B.C., has long shown the 
balance of world power. Egyptians, Phoenicians, Assyrians, Romans, 
Greeks, Franks, Venetians, Turks all held it. It has always been 
sought by contesting powers and won by the strongest. If Russia 
held Cyprus, she would cover Turkey on both sides and have a 
staging ground for operations along the whole Mediterranean littoral 
including Africa. 

Mountains rim two sides of the island, rising to 7,000 feet. High 
on these ranges are numerous summer resorts Troodos, Prodromes, 
Platres that have throughout history been favorite retreats for 
refugees from the heat of the Middle East. The lower slopes are 
heavily terraced with olives, almonds, and grapes. 

Some villages, with square limestone houses, streak like a glacier 
down the mountainsides. Others made of mud with flat thatched 
roofs cling precariously to cliffs. Usually there is a Greek Orthodox 
church or a mosque. Cyprus produces large quantities of oranges, 
lemons, and grapefruit citrus fruit as juicy as any I know. Great 
orchards of carobs the locust bean of John the Baptist, used for 
food by man and beast fill the coastal plains/ Apples, walnuts, 
caishas, cherries, figs, and plums also flourish in parts of the island. 
The hot, rolling central plain, the Messoria, grows most of the 
cereals wheat and barley. 

The goat has been the cow of Cyprus from time immemorial. It 
has furnished milk for cheese, wool for clothing, leather for shoes. 
It and the pig have long furnished the meat of the island. The 
damage caused Cyprus by the goat has been severe. It has mutilated 
olive orchards, dwarfed pine forests, and caused large acreages of 
trees to disappear. 

The ancient wooden plow is still used pulled by oxen or 
donkeys. A whole family goes to the fields in the morning the 
men in blue or white shirts, black, loose trousers, and high leather 
boots; women in black dresses with tight bodices and shawls; girls in 
close-fitting colored dresses of linen. Wheat or barley is still har 
vested with the hand sickle. The sheaves are tied on donkeys and 
taken to the ancient thrashing floor. There has been very little 
mechanization in any branch of agriculture. The reasons are simple. 

Ottoman law foisted on the island a crazy quilt of tenures. On 
death of the owner the land went to the heirs. As the heirs died and 
their heirs took over, ownership became more and more pulverized 

Go Walking Man 21 

until in some cases several persons might own one olive tree. Hold 
ings of a single peasant are often scattered. The average plot is only 
a little more than one acre. 

Moreover the total holding of land of one peasant is small About 
25 per cent have three acres or less; 52 per cent ten acres or less. 
Yet about twenty acres are necessary for the support of a family 
of five persons. "Carob kings" and "olive kings" built big estates 
by making loans at ruinous interest rates and then foreclosing. The 
churches both Greek Orthodox and Moslem are perhaps the 
largest landowners. They own the most fertile acreage of the 
island; they and a few rich individuals own a ninth of the arable 

For years the hand of the British lay as heavily on the island as 
had that of the Turks. Nothing was done to improve the lot of the 
peasant. About thirty years ago the British changed their attitude. 
They made rural surveys and looked into the living condition of 
the peasants. Since then, they have done a good job in Cyprus, 
apart from their traditional strategy of divisive politics. 

Malaria was a scourge and ravaged whole villages. Today it has 
been practically wiped out its incidence having been reduced from 
42 per cent in 1937 to 1.3 per cent in 1949. The island has also 
been cleared of rabies. 

The death rate in Cyprus is now one of the lowest in the world 
8.5 per thousand people, lower than in the United States. 

A health program has put hospitals in the main towns. 

Reforestation and restricted grazing of goats have built the state 
forests which comprise one-sixth of the area of the island into 
model units. 

Elementary schools have been extended to the remotest and 
smallest villages. More than an eighth of the budget goes to educa 

Marketing co-operatives have been formed with about one hun 
dred co-operative retail outlets. 

Credit co-operatives have been formed about six hundred of 
them to help farmers finance their operations at reasonable interest 

An excellent asphalt road system connects the main cities and 

The supply of water has been increased with numerous wells, 

32 Strange Lands md Friendly People 

reservoirs, aad irrigation projects. Over 40 per cent of the villages 
now have piped water. 

An ambitious electrification program is under way. 

But these reforms bring the British little credit in the political 
agitation that sweeps the country. One finds complaint in every 
coffee shop and on ever)" roadside. The Cypriot is a politically con 
scious, politically active person. He knows his grievances and is 
loud in proclaiming them. 

The main political grievances are three: (r) concentration of land 
ownership; (2) overabundance of citrus fruits, potatoes, cereals, 
and grapes the money crops grown for export; and (3) the desire 
for Enosis, that is. Union with Greece. 

Enosis is an old and passionate cause with Cypriots. Cyprus was 
never a part of Greece. Yet no Greek province is more fervidly 
loyal. Eighty-five per cent of the population is Greek; 15 per cent 
Turkish. At least 90 per cent of the Greek population of Cyprus 
considers Enosis a sacred cause. At the same time it is anathema to 
the Turkish minority. 

The depth of the feeling of the great majority of Cypriots was 
best expressed to us by an old Stroumbi villager. He was discon 
solate. Wine exports had dropped 50 per cent, a disastrous blow 
to the economy of his village. With great sadness he said, "Now 
look at Greece. She has surplus, But she finds markets for her wines 
and grapes." There is always the faith that Greece can solve the 
problems of surplus. Behind that faith is a blind, passionate nation 

The CcOTimunists have vied with the Greek Orthodox church in 
making Eaosis their cause. Their power has remained great, even 
though the late Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox church in Cyprus 
took militant measures against them. Beginning in 1947 he re 
moved from the pulpit priests with leftist" tendencies. He refused 
to admit known Communises to services. He had sermons delivered 
from every pulpit on the island about the menace of communism. 

In Cyprus as elsewhere G>minutii$t propaganda seeks to harass 
the "imperialists." It promises markets for plentiful wines, factories 
to process abundant carobs, and full employment. It denounces the 
cait>b kings and the olive kings. It promises that workers will own 
not only the land but the large copper and asbestos mines as well. 
It speaks of the u unexploited mineral wealth" of the island as though 

Go Walking Man 23 

some Michurian of Mines could succeed where the Cyprus Mining 
Corporation has during thirty-four years of intensive prospecting 
failed to find another deposit to compare with the copper deposit at 

There are aspects of the Communist propaganda which have a 
more romantic touch. 

One of the problems of a father is marrying off his daughters. As 
I have said, girls in the Greek world are carefully guarded and pro 
tected. They do not appear in public places unescorted; they live 
in seclusion or under close guard. Most coffee shops, like the voting 
booths, are for men only. But in these days a girl has to have more 
than a reputation of chastity in order to marry. Dowries are impor 
tant because of the increase of women over men. A dowry of five 
goats is fair; a dowry of land is better. 

And so believe it or not Moscow has promised to collectivize 
dowries in Cyprus. 

The Cypriot father thinks he would have reached Utopia if the 
state assumed the cost of marrying off his daughters. An Ayios 
Epiktetos villager expressed the local attitude toward large families. 
After proudly showing us pictures of his six children, he sadly 
apologized: "I have only the six. I am now thirty. But if I was not 
in Anny for six years, I have twelve!" 

Moscow also promises that workers will retire early and live out 
their days in the fashionable hill resorts. The Cypriot s hope has long 
been to join his cousins or brothers in England or America. But these 
dreams are now being replaced by visions of living in the hilltop 
palaces among the firs, pines, oaks, and cedars. Here he will escape 
the heat of the valleys and live in a land where gorgeous anemones 
and iris grow wild, where springs of cold water gush from the 
rocks, where the big-horn sheep is sometimes seen. 

The Communists got a strong hold on Cyprus during the war. 
Cyprus had a Mule Pack Transport Regiment in the British Army. 
In 1943 the Communist party sent eight hundred trained agitators 
to enlist in the regiment. Four hundred, including a majority of the 
Party Central Committee, were accepted. They spread their theology 
among the troops. When these servicemen returned home they were 
well indoctrinated. 

We talked with two Nicolas, a city boy, and Dimitros, a rural 
boy who were fairly representative. 

Go Walking Man 23 

some Michurian of Mines could succeed where the Cyprus Mining 
Corporation has during thirty-four years of intensive prospecting 
failed to find another deposit to compare with the copper deposit at 

There are aspects of the Communist propaganda which have a 
more romantic touch. 

One of the problems of a father is marrying off his daughters. As 
I have said, girls in the Greek world are carefully guarded and pro 
tected. They do not appear in public places unescorted; they live 
in seclusion or under close guard. Most coffee shops, like the voting 
booths, are for men only. But in these days a girl has to have more 
than a reputation of chastity in order to marry. Dowries are impor 
tant because of the increase of women over men. A dowry of five 
goats is fair; a dowry of land is better. 

And so believe it or not Moscow has promised to collectivize 
dowries in Cyprus. 

The Cypriot father thinks he would have reached Utopia if the 
state assumed the cost of marrying off his daughters. An Ayios 
Epiktetos villager expressed the local attitude toward large families. 
After proudly showing us pictures of his six children, he sadly 
apologized: "I have only the six. I am now thirty. But if I was not 
in Army for six years, I have twelve!" 

Moscow also promises that workers will retire early and live out 
their days in the fashionable hill resorts. The Cypriot s hope has long 
been to join his cousins or brothers in England or America. But these 
dreams are now being replaced by visions of living in the hilltop 
palaces among the firs, pines, oaks, and cedars. Here he will escape 
the heat of the valleys and live in a land where gorgeous anemones 
and iris grow wild, where springs of cold water gush from the 
rocks, where the big-horn sheep is sometimes seen. 

The Communists got a strong hold on Cyprus during the war. 
Cyprus had a Mule Pack Transport Regiment in the British Army. 
In 1943 the Communist party sent eight hundred trained agitators 
to enlist in the regiment. Four hundred, including a majority of the 
Party Central Committee, were accepted. They spread their theology 
among the troops. When these servicemen returned home they were 
well indoctrinated. 

We talked with two Nicolas, a city boy, and Dimitros, a rural 
boy who were fairly representative. 

24 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

Nicolas, a former lieutenant in the regiment, is educated and calls 
himself an anti-Communist. Like other Cypriots, he found Italy a land 
of similar interests. 

"Italy was all Communist then. We all were too, or pretended 
to be when we talked to the people. We saw a lot during the war 
we never knew about in Cyprus. I suppose we all came back wanting 
to do something to improve conditions here and modernize the 
industry and agriculture. A lot of us quit going to church because 
we could see the church in Cyprus was more concerned with 
politics than with God. If the church would give up some of its 
extensive landholdings, there would be more Christianity for every 

But Nicolas has learned a lot about the Communists in recent 
years. He said to us: "You know communism in Italy has decreased. 
It has here too. We just didn t realize then that communism is a 
form of foreign domination, and didn t stop to think that we have to 
be free to work out our own welfare." 

Dimitros is a rural agricultural worker. He lives in a small and 
attractive village between the Mediterranean and the mountains. He 
speaks perfect English, which he learned in the Army. He joined the 
Cyprus Regiment at the age of sixteen, spent three years in Africa, 
and the rest of the w r ar in Italy, Greece, and Syria. He has great 
personal admiration for the British officers he chauffeured and not 
much use for the Russians. 

After his wartime adventures he returned to his charming but 
backward village to find his mother still drawing water from one 
of the community wells. (That has been done in arid Cyprus since 
Biblical times, with the only difference that picturesque pottery jugs 
have today been largely replaced by square kerosene tins.) There is 
no electricity in his village. The majority of the population work 
on other people s farms, sometimes miles away. They start on foot 
or with their donkeys long before sun-up to sow or harvest spring 
wheat, summer fruit, autumn olives, winter oranges. They are 
among the hundred thousand seasonal rural workers who are to be 
seen on Cyprus roads late in the evening walking home from a long 
day s work. 

"Look,** said Dimitros, pointing out a group of barefoot women 
walking down the road at sunset, "those are my villagers. The sun 
when they get home it is still nine miles away. That 

Go Walking Man 25 

woman carrying her shoes Is my aunt. She carries them even though 
her feet get sore on brambles. She has only one pair. They must 
last a long time. Don t you think it s awful to have to walk so far and 
work so hard for so little? 

"We used to own our own farm. But the landlords we call 
them the olive kings and carob kings got it in payment for a loan 
one year when we had a bad crop. If the landlords and the church 
did not own so much land, we could live on our own land like we 
used to and work and live much easier." 

The Communist leaders are Cypriots and for the most part trade 
unionists. Many have been trained abroad. Their paraphernalia of 
political activities is familiar front organizations, purges, infiltra 
tion of trade unions, indoctrination courses in Marxism for select 
students, scholarships behind the Iron Curtain, general strikes, the 
party line. 

There is a robust, earthy quality in Cyprus politics. An incident 
in the 1949 election illustrates it. One Communist candidate for 
mayor had created a local scandal in Kyrenia by bringing his 
Hungarian Cabaret girl friend to his hotel. During one of his 
political speeches someone in the crowd shouted: "What about the 
Hungarian girl?" 

The candidate shouted back, "Would you have me molest a nice 
Cypriot girl instead? Would you like to have me take out your 
sister? Are you so fond of Hungarians?" 

During the election the Communists brought busloads of peasants 
and workers from faraway villages to Nicosia. They came to the 
capital perhaps to give a helping hand to the leftist campaign, per 
haps to make a show of strength. Almost as soon as the buses started 
for Nicosia, rumor spread like wildfire over the entire island that 
men with clubs in hand and fire in their eyes were en route to secure 
victory for the leftists. 

One group of rightists, who were barricaded in their club, were 
picketed by workers. They retaliated by throwing bottles and 
squirting "gaseos" (a drink like Coca-Cola). Many a head was sore 
the next day, but the newspapers reported only one death a traffic 

The lengths to which the Communists go in conforming to the 
Soviet ideological pattern is illustrated by Costas Partassldes, forty- 
one years old and mayor of Limassol. He is an amiable man and a 

26 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

popular one. His father was a grocer a real bourgeois. But Par- 
tassides striving to be truer to the Communist ideology refash 
ioned his ancestry for us. He told us his father was a "skilled 

The founder of the Communist party in Cyprus has a large 
popular following. He is a large man with silver hair, who might 
easily be taken for a banker or industrialist His name is Ploutis 

He has a strong hold on the electorate. In the 1946 election cam 
paign, he appeared for a scheduled lecture in one village with a 
very sore throat, and hoarsely said, "Ladies and gentlemen, every 
one who believes in something and fights for something must sacri 
fice something for the cause. I have sacrificed my voice." 

This is still remembered in Cyprus as a stirring speech which 
continued amid dead silence as Servas whispered on. 

The peasant has had no democratic leader of that popularity. 
Come election time, his choicj has been between the extreme right 
(Nationalist party) and the Communists. He has had no other place 
to go, and since the Communists have espoused his causes he has 
given them his vote. 

Nicosia was hot. It had the burning summer heat of our own 
Southwest. It was 80 degrees shortly after the sun rose. Before noon 
the temperature was marching toward no degrees or more. There 
was a noisy hum in the market place. Professional beggars lolled 
under eucalyptus trees, calling in cracked voices to passersby. 
Women swarmed over pomegranates, dates, lemons, onions, aspara 
gus, artichokes, and tubs of snails, buzzing with the gossip of the 
town as they bargained with the stall holders. Strings of goat meat 
attracted flies. Chickens tied in bundles squawked at our feet. 
Occasional caravans of camels appeared, their high heads sneering, 
their masters shouting inexplicable commands. Burros loaded with 
produce trotted by. There was the pungent smell of fresh fruit 
and vegetables, the strong odor of fish and ripe meat, the smell of 
mules and camels, the odor of freshly dampened dirt. 

By midafternoon the noise of the market had dropped to a low 
hum. Nicosia lay in shade almost asleep. The pulse of the city 
slowed. The scarlet rhododendrons and gladioli that decorated the 
stalls in the market began to wilt. 

Go Walking Man 27 

By 5 o clock there was a new stirring of life. A light wind came 
up, cooling the hot plain. The cries of the stall holders increased. 
Automobiles mostly British with right-hand drives honked their 
way through the crowds that forsook the sidewalks for the streets. 
The coffee shops began to fill up. Then a thousand tongues picked 
up the news and gossip of the day and passed it from house to 
house. Street vendors worked through the crowds, selling toys and 
fruit juices. And high above the crowds were camels, walking saucily 
and with dignity, headed for some pasture on the city s outskirts. 

We joined a group on the veranda of the Atlanta Hotel. It was 
now cool; the wind swept off the Troodos, refreshing the valley. 
It and the night gave us a reprieve from the sun. We reveled in the 
coolness as a fugitive from the searing heat of a treeless plain would 
relax in the shade of an oasis. 

We sat in quiet conversation, sipping cool drinks. Our conver 
sation was mostly about the ebb and flow of communism in Cyprus. 
One of the group was the charming Militza Stavrinides, a Greek 
girl in her twenties. It was an event to have a Greek girl in such 
a public place. She was one of the few females in Cyprus who had 
been freed from the ancient Greek customs that keep women 
subdued and subservient. Her family had given her the freedom 
of American women. 

She sat for a few minutes talking freely about politics, the recent 
election, and the project for union with Greece. Suddenly she froze 
and refused to continue. I asked her what the trouble was. She 
whispered that a waiter whom she feared was a Communist was 
eavesdropping and that she should say no more. I told her that we 
were leaving in the morning and that this evening was my last 
opportunity to gather information about Cyprus. 

She left abruptly saying she wanted to telephone her father. 
She returned in a few minutes and whispered, "Father will see 
you: 9 

So I took a taxi downtown. The streets and sidewalks were 
packed with people. They were sauntering about town, getting a 
Feel of the cool fresh air on their faces. The taxi slowly pushed 
:hrough this sea of humanity as a boat pushes through water. And 
is we moved ahead the mass closed in around us. It was a gay, happy 
:rowd that paid practically no attention to the horn which my 
Iriver used as a siren. 

28 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

Finally he stopped in front of a darkened building in the business 
district. This was the office of the right-wing paper, Freedom, 
of which Demosthenes Stavrinides is editor. There was not a sign 
of life in the streets. I felt again the heat of the day on my face, 
for the stone faces of the buildings were as hot as ovens. 

I went up a flight of stairs and was met by a young, swarthy 
man who spoke no English. He took me into a hot office. Militza s 
father was waiting. He rose to greet me, and as he came up out 
of his chair I thought his head would touch the ceiling. For he is 
a big man tall, broad, rangy. His skin, eyes, and hair are typically 
Greek. He has massive features and a deep, guttural voice. He speaks 
English in a halting, unsure way. And his English vocabulary is 
quite limited. 

He was a most gracious host interested in my research project 
on communism and eager to help. So we reviewed much of what 
I have already related. 

Finally I asked the questions designed to separate the true Com 
munists from the others. I went through the lists, city by city. 
Finally I came to John derides, prominent lawyer and former 
mayor of Nicosia. 

"Is he a Communist?" 


"Many people say he is," 

"They are quite wrong." 

"What would you caU him?" 

He puckered his brow and looked at the ceiling, searching for 
the word. He was silent for a minute or so. Then with the puzzled 
look still on his face he said, "I think you in America would call 
him a Go Walking Man." 

"A Go Walking Man," I said to myself. "What in the world is 

Finally his meaning dawned on me: "You mean fellow traveler." 

"Yes, yes, yes, that s it," he said with a smile. "Americans would 
call him a fellow traveler/ 

The Cypriots have too great a love for independence, too much 
fondness for freedom of expression and discussion, too great an 
interest in the politics of parties, too deep a passion for land owner 
ship to embrace communism as a matter of choice. 

Go Walking Man 2$ 

That is also true throughout the East. The Communist party with 
its Marxist ideology has attracted only a few in each country south of 
Russia s border. But a party controlled by Communists often garners 
most of the independent vote. The independent, the liberal is the 
fellow traveler. He is not a fellow traveler in the invidious sense in 
which we use the words. He is not a Communist in disguise. He 
does not embrace Communist doctrine. He uses the Communist- 
sponsored party to gain his immediate objectives. He has to go 
left and the Communists offer him the only effective, political 
machinery for expression of his views. 

In Asia as well as in Cyprus he has needed his own liberal party 
organization, one that is free of Communist domination. The role 
of fellow traveler is thrust upon him. The fate of the peasant from 
the Mediterranean to the Pacific depends in no small measure on 
the degree of true independence of this Go Walking Man. 

As this is written, word comes from Cyprus that John derides 
has taken the lead in forming a new party the Socialist party of 
Cyprus. It is a new liberal party under non-Communist leadership. 

3. A Picture Code 

IN THE Middle East, Soviet propaganda has taken several quirks. In 
the first place, the Soviets, while deprecating nationalism in Europe, 
adopt it as a dominant theme for the Middle East. They profess to 
want every minority to have its own nation under Soviet auspices, 
of course. In the second place, the Soviets do not denounce the 
church in the Middle East as they do in most places. Rather they 
use the church as a medium to reach the people. 

Lenin preached freedom for the Mohammedans and protection 
of their mosques and religious ceremonies. The Soviet propaganda 
at an early date made a special play for the Russian Orthodox 
church, an ancient Russian institution. Soviet ministers and attaches 
in this region particularly in the Arab world made quite a point 
of visiting monasteries and convents of the Russian Orthodox church 
and even of attending church services. Clovis McSoud, a young 
Arab lawyer whom I first met at Soueida in southern Syria, has 
made a study of the impact of communism on the Arab mind during 
the 40*5 when Soviet influence in this region was at its peak. 
McSoud said, "Many a Greek Orthodox in Syria and Lebanon joined 
the Communist party incidentally to their religious attachment. 
Those who did not join sympathized with the Soviet Union and 
felt in her the protector of their faith." 

That was also true of the Armenians who had special historic 
reasons for considering Russia as their protector. 

Armenia is at the southwest corner of Russia. Ancient Armenia 
stretched from the Bkck Sea to the Caspian and embraced the rich 
valleys of the upper Euphrates. Today it is a small nation of less 
than four thousand square miles with no seaport. 

Its neighbor on the south is Persian Azerbaijan, on the west 
Turkey. Its borders, like all Soviet frontiers, are for all practical 


A Picture Code 31 

matters closed to the outside world. Armenia s channels of commerce 
are to the north and east through two other Soviet states Georgia 
and Russian Azerbaijan. From 1921 to 1936 these three states were 
one; their name, Trans-Caucasian S. S. Federative Republic. In 
1936 Armenia became ^a separate state. Since that time she has been 
governed by a thousand or more members of the Communist party. 
Her population today is well over 1,250,000 people. 

Armenia has suffered from its geographical location. It is a 
segment of a great crossroads from the Mediterranean to the 
Pacific. The Medes and Persians conquered it. So did the Greeks. 
Persia and Rome divided it. In the fourth century Christianity 
became the religion of Armenia and a holy war against Zoroastrian 
Persia was launched. Later the Arabs subdued Armenia. The 
Seljuk Turks took it. Then came the Tartars from Mongolia. The 
Ottoman Turks and Persia divided the nation in the seventeenth 
century. On the turn of the nineteenth century Russia invaded 
Georgia. Then came the war of 1828 between Russia and Persia 
with Russia taking much of the present Armenia. Both Turkey and 
Russia then held parts of Armenia. The Armenians were persecuted 
and massacred by both those powers. The British used the Armenians 
as a buffer between Russia and Asia Minor. Both Britain and Russia 
wooed them. The British did nothing to protect them. Turkey, 
filled with suspicion of the great powers, took evil steps. In 1895, 
eighty thousand Armenians died at the hands of the Turks; in 1896 
six thousand more. 

As a result of many invasions and persecutions the population 
of Armenia was widely dispersed north into Russia, west into 
Greece and Europe, south into the Arab world and Persia. As 
another consequence of being the highway for conquerors, Armenia 
developed the habit of looking to an outside power for succor. 
Thus when the Greeks conquered Armenia, the Armenians looked 
to the Arabs for help. When the Moslem rule became oppressive, 
the Armenians turned again to the Greeks. In later centuries 
England was looked to as the protector. So was Turkey; so was 
Russia. Armenia suffered much from each one, but perhaps it 
suffered less from Russia than from the others. At least Russia 
became the symbol of salvation to the Armenians. When Soviet 
Russia gave Armenia its separate state, Russia seemed to many to 
be Armenia s best friend. Thousands went there from the Middle 

32 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

East. In 1946 alone it is estimated that forty thousand Armenians 
left the Middle East for their old homeland. 

Armenia has high plateaus and rugged mountains. The climate is 
extreme hot, dry summers and severe winters. Traditionally an 
agricultural country and a backward one at that, Armenia has in 
the last thirty years undergone a transformation. Electric power 
has been developed and with it a large degree of industrialization; 
minerals have been discovered and exploited; food-processing plants 
have been built; irrigation systems have been constructed; modern 
machinery has been brought to the farms. 

The Armenian language is in use* Many schools have been built. 
Theaters, opera houses, parks, museums, libraries have been con 
structed. A university, a musical academy, and many trade schools 
"were established. 

I learned in the Middle East (from non-Communist sources 
which I deem reliable) that there has been a substantial increase in 
the standard of living in Armenia S.S.R. during the last thirty 
years. Special emphasis seems to have been placed on education 
and industrialization, 

It seems that research in the physical sciences and in engineering 
has flourished in the schools, and that students and faculties are left 
alone provided they "keep their noses out of public affairs." How 
there can be any real academic freedom under those circumstances 
is difficult to imagine. But the growth of institutions of learning 
and the opportunities for education which the people of this area 
never enjoyed before have made a great impact; and word of the 
so-called renaissance spreads on facile tongues of propagandists. 

The Soviets have used the church in spreading Soviet gospel. 
To do this they have taken a hand in selecting the clergy and in 
exacting from them loyalty to the Soviet cause. The results are 
often apparent. 

Some of the clergy in their public utterances take the Soviet 
line whether it concerns British and American "imperialism" in 
the Middle East or the intervention of the United Nations in Korea. 
For example on August 25, 1950, the Supreme Patriarch Catholicos 
of the Armenian church in Russia, George VI, protested to the 
Security Council against "the American aggression in Korea," call 
ing the United Nations intervention a "man-hating anti-Christian 
act." George VI also supported the resolution of the Stockholm 

A Picture Code 3$ 

session of the Permanent Committee of the Soviet-sponsored World 
Peace Congress, 

Soviet propaganda saturates the Middle East with glowing stories 
of Armenia s progress. It is not used precisely to attract the remain 
ing Armenians into the Soviet zone; rather the purpose seems to 
be to instill dissatisfaction among all peasants and to fire nationalist 

A classic example of Soviet propaganda is a radio broadcast of 
what purports to be a travelogue of a noted Russian author* 

The author tells of the arrival in Armenia S.S.R. of Anneiitaos 
repatriated from Persia. He describes how forlorn, dejected, gaunt, 
and impoverished they* were "a spectacle of great misery." He 
tells how Persia was the "jungle of feudalism," Russia the "land of 
socialism" where "the happy tunes of work and effort can be heard." 
He talks of the "derelict land and dilapidated villages and hovels" 
of Persia where primitive agricultural methods are still used. And 
he contrasts it with Armenia S.SJEL where "the roar of cars and 
tractors" can be heard. 

Illiteracy in Armenia S.SJEL is wiped out, he claims; in Pema 
85 per cent of the people are illiterate. Armenia, he boasts, is rich 
in schools 14 high schools and 43 research centers for 1,300^000 
people, while Persia has only 5 high schools for 16 million people. 
He stresses the lack of medical facilities in Persia and relates how 
a hospital in one village in Armenia S.S.R. offers greater medical 
services than all those in Persia. He describes the beauties of the 
model villages and the model homes in Armenia S.S.R. He teUs 
how well paid their workers are, what good food they enjoy, what 
luxuries are available to them. He ends his travelogue as follows: 

The Persians who live in our neighborhood know full weE what sort 
of country Ees across the Aras River, and it is for this reason that the 
task of the Persian government and their so-calkd U. S advisers is be 
coming more and more difficult. It is for this reason that they have sav 
agely suppressed and are suppressing the national liberation movement. 

It is for this reason that they have drawn an iron curtain between the 
peoples of die Soviet Transcancasian Republics and the Persian nation, 
which suffers colonizing enslavement. The River Aras separates the 
Soviet Armenia and Persb^that is, the today and the yesterday of man 
kind. The Aras is one of the slowest-flowing rivers in AnnaBa, but 
happily history is otherwise, 

34 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

This is the glowing story the Soviet radios tell. One gets quite 
different versions south of the border. 

There are many Armenians in southern Persia. I visited among 
them and found them to be friendly, warm-hearted, industrious 
people. One day I stopped at an Armenian village between 
Shalamzar and Oregon in the Bakhtiari country of southwest Persia. 
I was met by the village elders, a dozen or more tall dark men with 
high broad foreheads and prominent noses who stood with dignity 
awaiting me. They were dressed in black long trousers, looking like 
pantaloons, loose coats, and high felt hats without brims. In their 
midst stood another man, also in his Sunday-best clothes, holding a 
ewe. The ewe had been washed and scrubbed; it was as white as 
snow a fluffy bundle in the arms of this swarthy Armenian. This 
was a sheep for the sacrifice a ritual celebrating my arrival. I 
halted the sacrifice; and the pure white sheep scampered away. 

The gesture of friendship established a bond and I became fond 
of these Armenians. For several centuries they have lived in this 
alien land where the great majority of the people are Moslems. 
They have nevertheless maintained their own customs, kept alive 
their religion and language, and preserved a racial solidarity that 
still thrives. Their Moslem neighbors think well of them; the Moslem 
landowners, for whom many of these Armenians worked, have 
only praise for them. 

The Armenians in Persia do not know quite what to think of 
Armenia S.S.R. The reports sent them through Armenian sources 
about the economic conditions, the standard of living, the absence 
of unemployment, the modernization of farms are often glowing. 

"Just how free are the Armenians in Russia?" I would ask. 

This was the question that bothers these Armenians. They do 
not know what new kind of slavery may have been substituted in 
Soviet Armenia for the tenancy that held their ancestors in sub 
jugation. They do not know what new persecutions may hold their 
people in. terror. They know that men do not live by bread alone. 
And so the remaining ones are torn: they have a yearning to share 
in the glories of their new nationalism; they have doubts and 
fears about intolerance and oppression inside Russia. 

Down in southern Persia I learned that all is not well in Soviet 

A Picture Code 3$ 

A few Armenians who migrated from Persia to Soviet Armenia 
have escaped to tell their story. Here is one tale from the lips of 
Hartoun, an Armenian peasant, who three years ago escaped with 
Khachik, another peasant and now lives not far from Isfahan. 

Q. What happened when you arrived in Russia? 

A. When we crossed the Iranian border in Azerbaijan we arrived in a 
Russian village in which we had a four-day rest. In the morning of the 
fifth a man who seemed to be the alderman delivered a short speech say 
ing that the Russian government does not consider any right of owner 
ship nor permit any commercial activities. "You must work as simple- 
laborers and earn your living. We need no peasants," he said. 

Q. What was your job? 

A. Our job was to trim off the trees of an orchard. We had to work 
for ten hours per day beginning from 8 A.M. Our other friends did 
similar things. Some others were engaged in different constructions. 

Q. What was your food? 

A. All our food for twenty-four hours consisted of five hundred 
grams of black bread with one ladleful of a liquid called borsch which 
was by no means sufficient. This was the most important reason for our 
flight from Russia. That is HUNGER. 

Q. Were you free to do anything and to go anywhere? 

A. Most of the time they watched over us. We could not go any 
where without having a written permission from the alderman. I remem 
ber one day a friend of mine had a two-day leave. He left his home 
disregarding the necessity of having the written permission. He, after a 
couple of hours, was arrested. But we, to some extent, were free in our 
private affairs. Nobody interfered in our private affairs. Only in official 
affairs, viz. working, the same alderman of the village interfered, having 
four foremen at his disposal. 

Q. Where were you living? 

A. It was a village having buildings like barracks. Population nearly 
three thousand heads. We do not remember how many men and women. 

Q. Did you have movies and theaters? 

A. We frequently visited pictures and theaters. 

Q. What were your wages? 

A. The furniture for living was composed of a wooden bed, a mat 
tress, a blanket and a drinking cup. Three hundred rials (six dollars) in 
cash was paid monthly together with one kilogram of sugar and one 
hundred grams of tea, the price of which was deducted from the three 
hundred rials. The furniture and the amount of cash paid monthly was 
hardly sufficient for a simple living. As a rule, to workers as we were 

36 Strmge Lands and Friendly People 

they give just enough to keep them alive. About other categories we do 
not know. But to me this rule has no exception. 

Q, How did government officials behave to the people? 

A. Very rudely and hard. 

Q, Did the police have any contact with you? 

A, No, unless they had to find a criminal or someone under suspicion. 

Q. What about your vacations? 

A. A month per year with written permission but we never got any. 

Q. Can you tell me what feelings the people in your village had about 
their government? Did anyone venture to express any criticism? 

A. On the whole people are discontented, but no one dares to express 
a thought against the government. We can say those whom we have 
seen in Russia are not living; they are existing. In spite of all that, these 
people love their country, ie., the land which is called Russia. We can 
assure you that their feelings toward their country are quite different 
from those they have for their government. 

Q. What happened when you were ill? 

A. In case of illness, a doctor and a sufficient quantity of drugs were 
kept ready and the patient was treated without paying. When surgical 
operations were needed, the patient was sent to town. Wages were paid 
as usual. 

Q. Why did you escape? 

A. Migration to us meant repatriation; thus we expected to have a far 
better life; but when we got there, they told us they needed no peasants. 
We in Iran used to till the soil and grow crops, we were not hired men. 
So we had to be engaged in work of which we had no experience. In 
the first few weeks we found out that we were losing our time. We were 
not laborers. We were separated from our families.* We were not given 
enough to eat. We did not have anything. We were suffering from 
poverty and hunger. 

Q. Do your other friends in Russia want to escape? 

A. Beyond the slightest shadow of doubt. Their situation could never 
be worse than that. They are suffering now. But you shall not under 
estimate the risk of escaping. 

Q. Tell me how you managed to escape, 

A. We were four who planned to escape. We set off in the evening, 
we moved on all night southward. The next morning about dawn we 
took shelter in woods. One was on guard while the other three were 
asleep. Next evening we set out again. In the morning we reached the 

*In Armenia S5.R. women, as well as men, are assigned to work. When 
Hartoun and his group arrived there, the women were given work assign 
ments in one village, the men in another; the children were sent to state 
schools; family life was broken up. 

A Picture Code 57 

border. There was a mountain overhanging the border and the river 
Araxes (Aras). All day we took cover in the mountain. It was then we 
learned they are tracking us. Once the pursuers came close to our hiding 
place, we could clearly hear them talking but they never found us. The 
third evening came and the most dangerous part of our flight was to 
begin; we had to cross the border. There was a trail alongside the river. 
When we reached that trail it was 10 o clock. We came across barbed 
wire, between the track and the river. It seemed that the wire was at 
tached to an alarm, because when we were working our way out of it, 
we suddenly saw the sparkling light of a car coming toward us. Two 
of our friends fled back to the mountain; but we two managed to get 
through the wires in time and submerged into the water. We heard some 
shooting but we were not hit. Soon we reached the side of the river 
which was Turkish territory. From that side of the river, we in rays 
of the searchlight saw our two timid friends, who were found and 
caught by the Russians. After three months of internment in Turkey we 
were handed over to Iranian authorities in Azerbaijan again. 

I also learned that the Armenians going to Russia have adopted 
a code to communicate with their relatives and friends whom they 
have left behind. If the family wants to get word back home that 
all is well in Soviet Armenia, that it is a desirable place to live, that 
the Armenians who are there like their new national home, and 
that the friends whom they left behind should join them, a picture 
of the group is sent in which the head of the family is standing. 
If, however, conditions inside Soviet Armenia are found to be 
oppressive or undesirable or disappointing, and those who are left 
behind are to be warned not to come, then a picture of the group is 
sent showing the head of the family seated. 

I had first heard of this code in Damascus; and I thought it was 
a joke. But I learned in the Ali-Goudarz district of southern Persia 
that it is true. An Armenian family, filled with these doubts, had 
agreed to use the picture code when an uncle and his wife and sons 
left Persia a year or so earlier for Armenia S.S.R. In the winter 
of 1949-1950 a letter from the uncle arrived in Ali-Goudarz. With 
it came a photo showing the family group. Some were seated on 
chairs, others were standing. The uncle was flat on the floor in 
front of the group. 

That decided the matter for the villagers in Ali-Goudarz. They 
remain in Persia, 

4. Azerbaijan 

AZERBAIJAN, the northwest province of Persia, lies snug against the 
Turkish and Russian borders. Mount Ararat nearly seventeen 
thousand feet high, conelike and flecked with snow looks down 
on it from the Turkish corner. The Araxes River which empties 
into the Caspian far to the north is the Persian-Russian border for 
two hundred miles or more. On the west is Lake Urmia, about the 
size of our own Great Salt Lake of Utah. Fish cannot live in it. It 
is indeed so salty that it clings like slime to one s skin. The Zagros 
Range heading up in Turkey and the Russian Caucasus and run 
ning to the Persian Gulf is a rough and rugged limestone rampart 
on the western border of Azerbaijan. Its passes are around eight 
thousand feet, its peaks as high as fifteen thousand. The Elburz 
Range on the east is both steeper and higher. Both are bare of trees 
on the slopes that face Azerbaijan. 

Azerbaijan has the barren appearance of Nevada and Utah, though 
there are between twenty and thirty-five inches of rain a year. Most 
of the water comes in wintertime snow that even in the valleys 
often lies eight or ten feet deep. And most of the water leaves in 
the spring in mad rushes that cut harsh gullies in the mountains, 
which long ago were studded with trees. 

In the winter Azerbaijan is whipped by cold winds that sweep 
down from the north and whistle through mud-walled villages. In 
the summer it is parched and blistered. Whirlpools of dust dance 
across the basins, sending eerie-shaped funnels hundreds of feet into 
the sky. The flat mud roofs of the houses crack under a scorching 
sun; and dust as fine as flour sifts through one s clothing. This is 
the heyday of the lizards; this is when only thistles and licorice 
root seem to thrive. 

But where there is water Azerbaijan is a garden. Valleys such 
as Khoy lie lush with crops at the foot of brown and burned hills. 

Azerbaijan 3$ 

Rezaieh, on the edge of the desolate salt sea, Is a rich oasis deep in 
shade. In the north vast fields of golden grain ripple in the hot wind 
that sweeps up from the south. The climate of Azerbaijan is good 
for crops and for people. The days are warm; but the valleys which 
lie between four thousand and five thousand feet are cooled at 
night by breezes that come off the mountains. 

Azerbaijan is a historic place. Here Zoroaster lived in the sixth 
century B.C. and taught the unending conflict between good and 
evil. This was the home of the Medes who, though they conquered 
Persia, were absorbed by it, losing themselves and their civilization 
in the process. The absorption was indeed so great that only one 
word of their language remains in the Persian vocabulary today 
sag, the Medes* word for dog. The Arabs came in the seventh 
century, converting all of Persia to the Moslem religion at the point 
of the sword. In the middle thirteenth century the Mongols swept 
through Azerbaijan burning and slaying as they went. They made 
Maragheh their capital and later Tabriz and ruled two hundred 
years. Then came the Turks. Azerbaijan, the border province, was 
in the path of a host of invaders. 

Azerbaijan was also the staging ground for revolt and a buffer 
for the whole realm of Persia. Its character has not changed in the 
intervening centuries. Twice in the nineteenth century Russia in 
vaded Azerbaijan; and in this century several times the last time 
in 1941. 

The location of Azerbaijan has had important commercial con 
sequences as well. Tabriz linked Asia and Europe in trade. It was 
a key point on ancient caravan routes. Its trade tapped distant 
markets. Eight hundred years ago its bazaars sold spices from India 
and cloth from Flanders. History has not changed its strategic 
location. The Transcaucasian Railroad has its terminus at Tabriz. 
It is a broad-gauge road running north to Russia and then by various 
links into eastern Europe. Now it is closed at the Russian border 
and its rails in Azerbaijan are covered with rust. Russia permits 
traffic over it only when Russia s needs are served. Once was during 
the winter of 1949-1950 when people were starving in Azerbaijan. 
Russia made capital out of that event. She sent carloads of wheat 
by way of the railroad and dispensed it ostentatiously. 

Azerbaijan, being from time out of mind an international high 
way, has seen the crossing of many races. The product is a people 

40 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

still Persian, but different from the rest. They speak a Turkish 
dialect which has absorbed many Persian words. They are a hardy 
lot vigorous, aggressive, easily aroused, hearty and open-faced in 
their relations. And their hearts are warm and generous. An 
Azerbaijan friendship is a sturdy thing robust and genuine a 
commitment that carries through fair days and foul. The Azer- 
baijanis are friendly to the Russian people, for the two are neighbors 
and as individuals they get along well together. But the Azerbaijanis 
are not Communist nor Communist inclined. Not one-tenth of i 
per cent of them have been converted to Marxism or its Soviet 

Azerbaijan in size is only 7 per cent of Persia. In population it 
is only 18 per cent three million out of sixteen million. Economi 
cally it is more important. It produces about a fourth of the wool, 
sheep, rugs, wheat, and barley of Persia; a third of the almonds, 
tobacco, and fats; a fifth of the raisins and sugar. Even in cotton 
its production is 15 per cent of the total. Azerbaijan is therefore 
important to Persia. It has long been coveted by Russia. 

When England and Russia became allies in 1941 they invaded 
Persia. The purpose was twofold to protect the Soviet rear from 
a German drive through the Caucasus; to provide a supply route to 
Russia. On August 26, 1941, British troops took over southern 
Persia; the Russian Army occupied Azerbaijan. During the occupa 
tion the Persian Gulf Command of the American Army managed 
the movement of some five million tons of war materials to Russia 
through this Persian corridor. At the end of the war the British and 
American troops departed. But Russia refused to withdraw. Her 
troops remained. It looked as if she was there to stay. Persia pro 
tested and carried the case to the Security Council of the United 
Nations. Public opinion forced Russia to retreat, and she at last 
withdrew her troops from Azerbaijan on May 9, 1946. 

But before and after that event Russia put in motion a tide of 
events that still churns that ancient province. 

Russian occupation armies are notoriously brutal. But the Russian 
Army that occupied Azerbaijan was a model of rectitude. Every 
one told me the same story; even the most bitter critics of the 
Soviets conceded it. The Soviets put on an act which left a deep 
imprint on the people. Russian troops were dealt with summarily if 

Azerbaijan 41 

they showed any discourtesy or offense to the civilian population. 
They toed the line of propriety in all respects. Discipline was 
severe. A Russian soldier would be shot for laying hands on a 
woman in Azerbaijan. 

Russia had one unique opportunity to show its discipline of 
troops and the loyalty required of them. She exploited it to the 
limit. The Soviet Army of Occupation had one battalion composed 
of Moslems from the Caucasus. They were stationed at Khoy. One 
day they decided to desert. So at an opportune moment they left 
Khoy and headed for the Turkish border some twenty-five miles 
distant. Their secret was not kept. Soviet troops went in pursuit 
and captured the Moslems, brought them back to Khoy and killed 
them in a cruel way. 

They chained them together and stacked them like sardines in 
the basement rooms of a garrison in Khoy. Then they flooded the 
floors with several inches of water and left the Moslems to die of 
cold and starvation. When a few weeks later the last man had died, 
they carried out the bodies. Thus did the Soviets publicize a lesson 
in discipline. 

The Russians were equally severe on dissident elements among 
the native population. They did not molest or harm those who kept 
their thoughts to themselves. But occasionally a son of Azerbaijan 
true to his tradition would speak his mind and protest against 
some Russian policy. And once in a while he would raise his voice 
against the Russian occupation. Every such person was dealt with 
summarily. I talked with a man in Rezaieh who was a witness to 
what happened to one dissenter. 

This man had made a speech in Rezaieh, objecting to the Russian 
occupation, pointing out how it subjugated Persia to a foreign rule, 
and asking for the liberation of Azerbaijan. He was at once arrested 
by Soviet soldiers and brought to the edge of town under military 
escort. He was given a shovel and ordered to dig a grave. When it 
was completed, the man was not shot; he was bound hand and foot 
and placed in the grave on his back. Then he was buried alive. As 
the shovels of dirt were thrown on him he prayed to All son-in-law 
of Mohammed and first apostle of the Shiah faith. "Alee-AIee," he 
cried, "Alee, never fails." And soon there came from under the dirt 
the last mufHed words, "Long live Azerbaijan. Then all was still, 
only the thump, thump, thump of dirt as shovels worked quickly 

42 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

to fill the tomb with six feet of dirt and still forever the voice oi 
a lone dissenter. 

The Soviets however used means much subtler than terror to win 
over the masses. They sent through the province agents working 
in pairs. One would be the spokesman; the other would purport to 
be his secretary. They would come to a village and interview 
peasants one at a time. A typical conversation ran as follows: 

What is your name?" 


"How many in your family?" 

"My wife and seven children." 

"Which is your house?" 

"This one here [pointing]." 

"Look at the miserable place this good man has to live," the agent 
said to his secretary. "Haven t we got something better for him? 
Look at your list." 

The secretary thumbed through a book and replied, "Yes, there 
is the home of the deputy to the Prime Minister in Tehran. That 
is unassigned." 

"Put him down for that," the agent told his secretary. Turning 
to the villager he said, "When the revolution comes and we take 
Tehran, that will be your home." 

Then he asked, "How many rugs do you have?" 

Every Persian has a rug. It may be dirty and moth-eaten; but it 
is always a cherished possession. This man ran to get his shabby 
prayer rug two feet wide and about four feet long. He held it up 
to the agent, who turned to his secretary and said, "Put him down 
for six rugs the nicest that Kurish, the rug man, has in Tabriz." 

And so the discussion went from houses to rugs, from rugs to 
meat, from meat to schools for the children. 

The campaign moved from peasant to peasant, from village to 
village. This was pie-in-the-sky come to bedraggled, poverty-ridden 
villagers. They received promises of rewards as tangible as any that 
a precinct leader ever offered the faithful. Thus did the Com 
munists go among the peasants, spreading discontent. 

During this same period the Russians took more effective political 
measures. They undertook to organize a government in Azerbaijan 
which they could leave behind when their army withdrew. 

Azerbaijan 43 

Daniel Komisarov Soviet press attache was the bottomrock of 
the Azerbaijan affair, the Soviet brain behind the various Com 
munist parties in Iran. He had an excellent knowledge of the Persian 
language. He sat in the coffee shops and talked man-to-man with 
the Persians, who liked him for his seeming frankness and meekness. 
He molded political sentiment the Soviet way. 

The man selected to head the government was a native of Azer 
baijan, the son of a holy man Jafar Pishevari. Pishevari is a Com 
munist who was educated in Baku and who taught in Communist 
schools in Russia. He went back to Persia in the 3o s, organizing a 
union and publishing newspapers first at Resht and later at Tehran. 
His paper was closed by Reza Shah Pahlavi, father of the present 
Shah; and he was sent to jail. When Britain and Russia invaded 
Persia in 1941, Pishevari and all other political prisoners were re 
leased from jail. Tudeh party, the Persian Communist party that 
always meticulously avoided using the Communist label, was formed 
in 1942. Pishevari was one of its early members, promoting its 
causes through a new paper which he founded after his release from 

Late in 1945 Pishevari went to Tabriz and formed the Democrat 
party, the Azerbaijan counterpart of Tudeh. That party led a 
"revolt." Soviet troops immobilized the Persian Army stationed in 
Azerbaijan; and Pishevari came into power. A cabinet was formed, 
a parliament elected, and a political program put into effect. The 
Pishevari government lasted only from late 1945 to December, 1946. 
It and the central Persian government quarreled over the super 
vision of an election called by the Shah. Persian troops entered 
Azerbaijan, there were a few skirmishes, the government of Pishe 
vari collapsed, and Pishevari left for Russia forty-five minutes 
before the Persian Army reached Tabriz. The Russian Army, which 
had withdrawn from Persia six months earlier, did not come to 
the rescue. 

I had assumed from press reports that Pishevari was not only a 
Soviet stooge but a bumbling and ineffective one as well. I learned 
from my travels in Azerbaijan in 1950 that Pishevari was an astute 
politician who forged a program for Azerbaijan that is still enor 
mously popular. 

What his long-range program would have been no one knows. 
Many suspect it would have followed the Russian pattern; others 

44 Strange "Lands, and friendly People 

say It would have been tuned to Persian needs with a mild bram 
of socialism. But the bulk of the program which Pishevari actual! 1 
imposed on Azerbaijan was purely straight reform. 

1. The part of his program which most impressed the peasant 
was land reform. It had some communism in it. He confiscated th 
land of all absentee landlords and distributed it to the peasants. Bu 
he left untouched the land of resident landlords; a new law merel^ 
increased the tenants 7 share of the crop. 

2. Pishevari also gave a socialistic flavor to his program. Hi 
government nationalized the larger banks. 

3. Second only to land reform in popular appeal was the la^ 
that made It a capital offense for a public official to take a bribe 
Two top officials and a few lesser ones were hanged for this offense 
The kw had an electrifying effect. Merchants told me that the^ 
could keep their stores unlocked all night and be safe from robbers 
Natives told me that for the first time they could with safety kee] 
their cars on the streets all night without losing wheels, headlights 
or any other removable parts. 

4. Health clinics were created, some being itinerant and serving 
the villages from Tabriz. 

5. The prices of basic commodities were rigidly controlled 
hoarding of food was severely punished, a rationing system wa 
adopted whereby everyone received the minimum requirements f o 
living. Pishevari promised that the cost of living would be reduce< 
40 per cent; and it was. 

6. A minimum-wage and maximum-hours-of-work law was estab 
lished and collective bargaining between employees and employer 
was introduced. 

7. A public-works program was undertaken and many streets an< 
roads were paved. The unemployed were put to work. 

8. A broad educational program was launched, schools beinj 
planned for all the villages. The University of Tabriz was f oundec 
with two colleges a medical school and a school of literature 
(The University is still a going concern.) The cultural aspects o 
Azerbaijan were emphasized. Instruction in the primary school 
was in the Azerbaijan language. 

9. Pishevari sponsored autonomy for Azerbaijan, but not sepa 
ration from Iran. He wanted at least half the taxes collected ii 
Azerbaijan to be spent there. He wanted the province to have \ 

Azerbaijan 45 

greater degree of self-government and a larger representation in 
the national parliament than it had ever enjoyed. 

There were other parts to Pishevari s program; but these were 
the basic ones. Events intervening since the Pishevari government 
collapsed have made this program increasingly attractive to the 
people as they view it in retrospect. 

When the Persian Army returned to Azerbaijan it came with a 
roar. Soldiers ran riot, looting and plundering, taking what they 
wanted. The Russian Army had been on its best behavior. The 
Persian Army the army of emancipation was a savage army of 
occupation. It left a brutal mark on the people. The beards of 
peasants were burned, their wives and daughters raped. Houses 
were plundered; livestock was stolen. The Army was out of control. 
Its mission had been liberation; but it preyed on the civilians, leav 
ing death and destruction behind. 

On the heels of the Army came the absentee landlords. They 
demanded not only the current rentals; they also laid claim to the 
rent which had not been paid while Pishevari was in power. These 
back payments were a severe drain on the food supply of the 
peasants. Moreover, the Pishevari crowd, when it left, took quite 
a few cattle and considerable grain out of the country. The com 
bination of events made the winter of 1947-1948 a harsh one. The 
pinch on the peasants was acute. In order to survive the winter, 
they had to draw on their reserves of grain. As a result they had 
less seed for planting the following spring; and there was a skimpy 
crop that summer. 

The winter of 1948-1949 was bitter cold. There was snow on the 
ground for seven months or more. Many livestock died, the shrink 
age in many herds being as great as two-thirds. On the cold wind 
swept Moghan steppe in northeast Azerbaijan close to 80 per cent 
of the livestock was lost; and ten thousand tribesmen were on the 
edge of famine and starvation before spring arrived. Grain and 
meat were scarce; prices soared. 

The landlords of Azerbaijan the most callous I have known 
sold their grain at high prices on the market while their villagers 
starved. They even sold a lot of seed grain, cutting down the supply 
for planting in* the spring. One hundred tons of wheat sent by the 
central government to Tabriz to relieve the hunger of the poor 

46 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

never reached them. The local officials sold it on the market and 
pocketed the proceeds. 

The spring and summer were late- the crop of 1949 was slim. 
Peasants actually were eating grass and roots before the 1949 crop 
came in, and before the fall of 1949 had passed they were practically 
out of food. They were so impoverished that not more than i per 
cent of the people of Azerbaijan had enough warm clothes to face 
the cold of 1949-1950. 

The winter of 1949-1950 was the severest of recent record. There 
were ten feet of snow or more in Azerbaijan. Villages without food 
were isolated. Peasants dipped into the feed they had for their 
livestock. Then the livestock died and they ate them. Then they 
themselves died. Thousands upon thousands died. In the village of 
Navaii near Khoy where I stopped, fifty out of three hundred 
people died of cold and starvation. In many villages every person 
in a household died. It was common to find whole families prostrate, 
none able even to stand. And yet the granaries of the landlords 
were often full, the grain being held for a higher price. An illiterate 
peasant in Navaii stopped his thrashing to tell me some of the lurid 

The central government sent grain from the Persian Gulf. It is 
estimated that only half reached the people. The rest was diverted 
to the black market, much of it going to Iraq. Then came the 
Russians with their wheat train down the Transcaucasian Railroad, 
doling out food to the hungry people in an apparently efficient 
manner. "Russia was a true friend last winter," many a grizzled 
peasant told me. 

But the tragedy of the situation, the pathos and suffering were, 
best summarized for me by a blind beggar and his wife. ^ Y r * 

He was Karim and his wife was Fatiina. Both were well over 

I met them far below Tabriz on the western edge of Kurdistan 
not far from the village of Kamyaran. My party had had a sump 
tuous lunch and after eating lay down for the customary siesta. I 
walked outside to take pictures. Finally the glaring sun drove me 
to the shade of a senjid tree where the old couple were seated. 
There we talked for a half hour or so. 

These people were beggars of low estate. The man was dressed 
in rags. His coat was not merely patched; it was made of patches, 

Azerbaijan 4*7 

pieces cut from old blankets, gunny sacks, and canvas. I did not at 
first notice his finely chiseled features because of the heavy stubble 
of his gray beard and the streaks of dirt on his face. His hands were 
long, thin, and sensitive. A typical Azerbaijan felt hat without a 
brim sat on the back of his head. Gnarled toes stuck out from a 
pair of decrepit leather sandals. 

He and his wife were Christians. She stood unveiled before me, 
a grimy tan-colored cotton shawl draped over her head. Her face 
was pinched and drawn, partly from a total absence of teeth, partly 
from hunger. Her skin was parched and dry like leather, her hands 
were as thin and skinny as talons. She talked in a shrill voice, nerv 
ously twirling the ends of her shawl. 

This was their story: 

They had been tenants of a landlord in a village which I will call 
Nourabad. There they had worked all their lives, paying as rent 
60 per cent of the crop. Several years ago Karim had gradually lost 
his sight until now he was blind. He could tell when it was light 
or dark; but he could not see objects. The whole burden of the 
farm fell on Fatima. 

The winter of 1948-1949 was long and cold. Running out of food, 
they bought grain from the local agent of the landlord The legal 
rate of interest in Persia on agricultural loans is 1 2 per cent. Their 
landlord charged them 40 per cent. He collected in grain at the 
next harvesting. 

"Listen," cried the old lady in a voice so shrill that it was almost 
a shriek. "He charged us eighty cents for grain, and when we 
repaid him the next year the grain was only forty cents. So we had 
to pay him back twice as much as we had borrowed. We had to 
pay the interest too. We paid him almost three times the grain we 
borrowed." Then looking me in the eye she cried, "Do you think 
that is just?" 

After the landlord had been repaid there was only about a fifth 
of the crop left for the blind man and his wife. This included 
fodder and about two hundred pounds of wheat and barley. This 
couple had not only themselves to feed; they had two sheep, a goat, 
and a donkey. 

Winter came in a rush. It was soon apparent that these people 
did not have food to carry them and their stock until spring. The 
landlord s granaries were full; but the agent wanted too high a 

48 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

price and 40 per cent interest. The loan would impoverish them. 
Further, Fatima s health was poor and she thought she no longer 
could do the farming alone. So they decided to sell their belongings, 
take what money they could raise, and go to Tabriz and find work 
and food. Apart from the livestock there was not much to sell a 
small prayer rug, a few dishes, a picture of Christ in a wooden 
frame. All their belongings brought less than eighty dollars. But 
with this they could live the winter out in Tabriz. Or so they 

They left Nourabad on a bitter cold day, Karim carrying the 
blankets in a roll on his shoulder. Fatima put in her pockets their 
remaining food the thin, unleavened bread which she had baked 
the night before with the last of their wheat, and a piece of goat- 
milk cheese about the size of an egg. 

Two feet of snow covered the road. They broke a path for 
several miles and then came into a highway where sleds had passed. 
Until then Fatima had been guiding Karim by the arm. Now she set 
him in the broken path and he walked alone. 

In this slow and plodding way they came to Tabriz at dusk. 
Their cheese was gone and most of their bread. They entered a 
bazaar to replenish their supply of food and inquire about work 
and lodging. As they stood before a stall where grain was sold a 
sergeant of the gendarmes stepped up and said, Where is your 

"Nourabad," Fatima replied. 

"What are you doing here?" 

*We came to buy some grain." 

Karim and Fatima did not know that it had been made a criminal 
offense to sell grain to a nonresident of Tabriz. Rationing had been 
decreed in all its rigors. Tabriz had enough food for its own popula 
tion but no more. 

"Now you will come to jail," said the gendarme. He hustled them 
off, Fatima shouting imprecations, Karim protesting. But their 
objections were of no avail. They spent that night and several more 
in jaiL 

"What happened?" I asked. 

Fatima took time to answer. "One day the sergeant came in and 
said, How much money do you have?" I told him we had about 
four hundred tomans [eighty dollars]. He pulled out a book and 

Azerbaijan 49 

wrote in it with a pencil. In a few minutes he looked up and said, 
Your fine is four hundred tomans. You can pay me now and I will 
let you go. " 

Karim spoke up, "I protested to the gendarme. Fatima also argued 
with him. The gendarme came over to me, took me by the throat, 
and shook me, saying Listen, you blind old devil. People are shot 
for doing what you did. Do you want to get shot or do you want 
to pay me that four hundred tomans? " 

"You paid?" 

"Yes, we paid," Karim answered. "Now we were penniless, we 
had nothing. We were out on the streets in a blizzard, no work, no 

"What did you do?" I asked. 

Fatima opened wide her brown eyes now filled with tears and, 
spreading open her hands, said in a whisper, "See we became 
beggars." Then she broke down and sobbed. 

Karim and Fatima lived on the streets begging for rials, for food, 
for pieces of cloth to wrap up Karim s feet. They sought shelter 
at night behind walls, under packing boxes. Finally an old lady let 
them sleep on her floor. But she had no food for them. They could 
not find work. They lived on crusts of bread, on morsels of cast-off 
food. They and the dogs and other beggars competed for their 
very lives on the streets of Tabriz. 

One night a cold blustering night in January something hap 
pened which shows how revolutions are sometimes brought to a 
boiling point. 

Karim and Fatima were begging on a street corner of Tabriz 
when they saw a group of about a dozen peasants being herded along 
by gendarmes with drawn bayonets. They had committed the same 
crime that she and Karim had; they had come to Tabriz to find 
food. Fatima told Karim what was happening and whispered, 
"Come, let us go with the crowd." 

She guided him to the middle of the street and the two of them 
followed behind the crowd. More joined the procession, all the 
ragamuffins and beggars of Tabriz. According to Fatima it was a 
big crowd of several hundred by the time they reached the jail. 
One of the peasants under arrest tried to escape and was laid low 
by the butt of a gun. 

"We didn t like it," Fatima said. "We shouted at the gendarmes 

jo Strange Lands and Friendly People 

to stop. A big growl went through the crowd. The man who was 
knocked down was carried into the jail. The rest of the prisoners 
were shoved and herded like cattle. None of us liked what we saw. 
I shouted to the prisoners, Do not let the gendarmes rob you. I 
was angry. Everyone was angry. When I told Karim what had 
happened, he swore. He was angry too." 

Fatima stopped, looked me in the eye and said, "Karim and I 
are not Communists. Will you believe me? Will you believe my 
husband? You must believe me before I tell you what happened 

"Yes, I believe you," I answered. 

Fatima straightened up, put out her chin, and with all the pride 
of Azerbaijan on her face said, "It was awful what had happened 
to us and to the other peasants. Arrested for trying to buy food! 
Robbed of our money by the police who were supposed to protect 
us! Thrown out in the streets to die like dogs of cold and starvation! 

"We could not stand it any longer. Everyone in the crowd felt 
the same way. We stood in front of the jail and shouted in the 
faces of the gendarmes, Pishevari! Pishevari! We want Pishevari! " 

This blind beggar and his wife are typical of those who today 
make Azerbaijan boil. Their story could be duplicated over and 
again throughout the length and breadth of that province. It explains 
why non-Communists flock to Communist leadership in this border 
area. Here communism gains merely by default, not by a swelling 
crowd of converts to its cause. 

Soviet intelligence in this region is alert. At the time Karim and 
Fatima were starving in Tabriz the Moscow radio was speaking to 
Azerbaijan in Persian as follows: "Thousands of the starving people 
wander in the streets of Tabriz and no one helps them. They are 
all condemned to death by starvation." 

Azerbaijan means the Place of the Keeping of the Fire. The 
Communists have fanned that fire to the point of blazing. 

Pishevari s program was so popular especially land reform, severe 
punishment of public officials who took bribes, and price control 
that if there had been a free election in Azerbaijan during the 
summer of 1950, Pishevari would have been restored to power by 
the vote of 90 per cent of the people. And yet not a thousand 
people in Azerbaijan out of three million are Communists. 

The Tribes of Persia 

PERSIA, REMOTE and mysterious, is increasingly important in our 
lives because of the critical frontier it and its oil occupy in world 
affairs. That is why we must understand it and know what makes 
it what it is. Persia is deep in our culture and traditions. We have 
vague recollections from our school days of a part of that influence: 

Zoroaster, born about 660 B.C. in Azerbaijan, Persia s northwest 
province, who taught the unending conflict between good and evil, 
the dignity and worth of man, the immortality of the soul; the man 
who preached "Be like God" 

Cyrus, who, as Ezra relates, conquered Babylon from the Assyr 
ians, returned the Jews from their captivity, and helped them re 
build the temple in Jerusalem 

Darius, who, bound by the law of the Medes and the Persians, 
caused Daniel to be cast into the lions den and who, when Daniel 
came out unscathed, embraced Daniel s faith 

Xerxes, who married Esther the Jewess and saved the Jews from 
Hainan s pogrom 

Persepolis, built by Darius about 500 B.C. and destroyed by Alex 
ander the Great two hundred years later 

Sufism, that finds God in the stars and the wind, in the beauty of 
a countenance or flower, in the expression of love and tenderness 

Firdausi (who wrote the Shah Namah or the Epic of Kings), 
Omar Khayyam, Nizami, Hafiz, Saadi, Jami, and a long list of other 
poets whose songs have brought music to most of the earth 

The Bab and Baha u llah, who were founders of the Bahai faith 

These personages and events, plus Persian rugs, pictures of an 
attractive young man called the Shah, and news accounts relating 
to the assassination of cabinet officers and troubles over oil give 

p Strange Lands and Friendly People 

a vague impression of the country known to us as Persia and now 
officially called Iran. 

Persia needs to be known more intimately by the West. Though 
far away and remote, it occupies a strategic and important place 
in world affairs. It possesses about one-fifth of the known oil reserves 
in the world. Its ports along the Persian Gulf give access to India 
and Africa. Its northern neighbor is Russia, who either may need 
oil or may desire to shut off Europe s supply from the Middle East. 
The pages which follow attempt to introduce the people of Per 
sia, to describe their problems, and to analyze some of the major 
stresses and strains within the nation. I use as my main material the 
four chief tribes of Persia the Kurds, the Lurs, the Bakhtiaris, and 
the Ghashghais who, I think, are a good mirror in which to see the 
soul and spirit of the nation. These tribes with whom I have lived 
intimately reside in the rough and broken Zagros Mountains that 
stretch from the Russian and Turkish borders on the north to the 
Persian Gulf on the south. 

If we are to understand these people and see their problems in 
perspective, we must not only go to Persia; we must return to 
Persian history and reread it. 

Persia, like Armenia, is the land of the invaders. The Greeks 
conquered it in 331 B.C.; the Arabs in the seventh century A.D. 
Then came repeated invasions from the east the Mongols, Tartars, 
and Seljuk Turks bringing destruction and devastation to the land, 
depredations still associated in Persia s villages with the name Genghis 
Khan. These Turanian invaders held sway for nearly one thousand 
years, the last dynasty being the Kajar, which ruled for nearly a 
century and a half until 1925, when Reza Shah, a pure Persian and 
father of the present Shah, seized power. 

Thus the Persians have lived much of their history under foreign 
rulers. The foreigner has left a great imprint. The Arabs converted 
Persia to the Islamic faith at the point of the sword. Persians, how 
ever, did not accept the faith unconditionally. The orthodox Islamic 
creed is the Sunni, but the Persians mostly followed the Shiah sect. 
This flair for the unorthodox is a distinctive quality of the 
Persian character. It is an important reason why Persians, though 
under foreign rule for much of their history, have survived as a 
race and kept pure the main stream of Persian culture. In fact, 
much of Persia s finest work in literature and the arts was done dur- 

The Tribes of Persia $3 

ing the periods of the invaders. The invader was somehow a chal 
lenge; the Persian spirit of independence manifested itself in creative 

The invader had other effects on the Persian personality. The 
Persian is a master of subtle indirection. One hears in official circles 
that there are fifty-seven different ways of saying yes (ball) in 
Persian. That of course is a jest; but it has a kernel of truth in it. 

Old-timers in Persia say that it is a place where one who comes 
with impatience learns patience and one who comes with patience 
acquires impatience. That jest also has a bit of substance to it. 

A prominent physician in Persia told me that his greatest difficulty 
in diagnosis was to get from his patients a true and complete history 
of their ailments. The long centuries under the rule, of the invaders 
quickened the instinct for survival: one avoided confessions and 
developed new values for secrecy and evasion. 

Life under the invader also taught the art of circuity of thought 
and action. Indirection became the modus vivendL One adopted the 
circuitous method not only for purposes of evasion but for im 
portant transactions involving life and honor. Thus if a Persian 
desired to pledge his loyalty and support to the Shah or the Gov 
ernor, he never did it directly; he confided his promise to a third 
person, who by being a witness increased the value of the agreement. 

These are minor facets of the complicated Persian personality; 
and in the main they do no more than add an intriguing flavor. In 
great measure Persians and Americans have a close spiritual affinity. 
The Persian is Aryan the stock that gave most Europeans their 
culture and ethnic characteristics. The Aryans of Persia have a 
darker skin than we; but they are more Nordic than Mediterranean. 
Their heads are long, their foreheads high, their noses narrow. 
They have a tendency to sparseness. They are a quick-witted, 
friendly people with a yen for tall tales and dry humor. They 
know the art of hospitality; they thirst for discourse and argumenta 
tion. They love the outdoors streams and mountains and the hunt. 
In the social sense they are as democratic as any people I have 
known. They have a reserve we associate with our New Englanders; 
but underneath they are close kin to our Westerners. These char 
acteristics, most conspicuous among the tribes, tend to become 
diluted and modified in the cities. 

These tribes of whom I write were from time out of mind prin- 

J4 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

cipalities within Persia. The Ilkhan of each tribe was a king; the 
Shah of Persia was the king of kings. The Ilkhans constituted a 
council of nobles who governed with the Shah. The tribes paid 
taxes to the Shah and furnished soldiers for the Persian Army. 
But each tribe had a large degree of autonomy, greater in fact than 
the separate states of our nation. This system of government sur 
vived all invasions. It was somewhat modified by the Greeks, who 
introduced Governors for the various provinces; but the Governors 
were in the main tied in with the tribes, and the deep-seated pattern 
of government continued as before, largely undisturbed. Though 
the pattern was feudal, not democratic, it was in large measure 
benign and progressive. 

In the eighteenth century disaster struck Persia, a disaster that 
has been a crippling force even to this day. At that time an alien 
Turkish tribe, who could not speak the language, seized control of 
the country and ruled for two centuries. They established the Kajar 
dynasty, which laid a curse on the land. They ruled and exploited 
the people; but they did not govern. Seeing the opportunity for 
profit in Persia s feudal system, they murdered and dispossessed 
the feudal lords and sold their offices to the highest bidder. The 
purchasers in turn sold the subordinate positions under them. Some 
times a syndicate would purchase a provincial government and sell 
at auction to the highest bidder every office way down to the 
village chief. Thus government became a ferocious, devouring 
force. It lived on the people. It squeezed every copper possible 
from them. The feudalism that had been the strength of Persia 
became the means for bleeding it white. 

Justice was for sale. Power was used to exact blackmail. The army 
and the police were weakened and corrupted. Decay took hold in 
the moral fiber. The religious ideals that had supplied the generating 
force behind Persia s great dynasties were discarded. 

Not all of the country was despoiled. The Kajar dynasty reached 
as far into the hinterland as it could, but the fastness of the moun 
tains held treasures it could not reach. These treasures were the main 
tribes: the Kurds, the Lurs, the Bakhtiaris, and the Ghashghais. 
They remained independent and largely untouched. Their power in 
fact grew under the Kajars, for peasants flocked to their dependen 
cies for shelter from the long, oppressive hand of the central govern 

The Tribes of Persia 55 

For the most part, these four tribes (with unimportant exceptions) 
flourished in their ancient and accustomed manner until Reza Shah 
Pahlavi, father of the present Shah an army officer seized power 
in 1925. He undertook to break their feudal systems and to settle 
them in permanent villages. This part of the book touches on that 
phase of the life and problems of the tribes. But it goes further 
and attempts to tell what kind of people they are, their worth and 
position, their role in this momentous period of history. 

The books and articles that one finds in our libraries usually 
describe these tribes in unfriendly terms. The tribesmen are said 
to be villains robbers and murderers. Some of the tribes have been 
used on unholy missions; they have been aroused to fanatic violence; 
in years past they were instruments through which terror and de 
struction struck at innocent people. But I walked and lived among 
these tribes and came to know the lowliest as well as the highest 
of them. I learned to respect and admire them. 

Today they constitute nearly a fourth of Persia s sixteen million 

They are mostly ruled as they were centuries ago by their 
tribal chiefs. The Ilkhan is at the top and under him a hierarchy 
of tribal chiefs khans who rule a tribe, kalantars who govern per 
haps a thousand families or more, kadkhodas who are heads of 
clans or govern from twenty families on up, and rish-safids, the 
elders or graybeards of a clan or village. 

These four main tribes are the hard, central core of the nation 
proud, passionately independent, courageous, and gallant. They have 
a deep attachment to their land. They are skilled and resourceful 
warriors. They could become if there were the wisdom and polit 
ical acumen to manage it an untiring guerrilla force that would 
relentlessly harass the invader and over the years make an occupa 
tion costly. For they live in wild and rugged mountains where dizzy 
cliffs and harsh defiles are barriers to all transport but mules. They 
know every trail, every cave, every spring in that vast and broken 
land. Patrol of the borders has been their historic mission. In this 
they have their greatest pride. But time and circumstance perhaps 
fate have conspired to deprive them of that role in this the greatest 
crisis in their history, which may also be the greatest crisis in the 
history of our world. 


Kurdish Nationalism 

THE KURDS are an ancient race located today in five countries 
Persia, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Soviet Armenia. There are well over 
a million in Persia alone, largely in the northwest, where they 
command the Zagros Mountains from Mount Ararat on the north to 
Kermanshah on the south. The racial origin of the Kurds is not 
definitely known. Some (including the Kurds) believe they are the 
original -Medes. They are probably from Aryan stock. Those in 
Persia have a language that has a common root with Persian; but it 
also has an admixture of Turkish and Arabic. 

Ancient Kurdistan is now divided between Iraq, Turkey, and 
Persia. The Turko-Iraqi frontier cuts through the heart of the ancient 
country. It has long been the ambition of many Kurds to unite 
these broken pieces into one nation. At the end of World War I 
the Treaty of Sevres provided for a Kurdish state, but events 
conspired to divide the ancient Kurdistan, not between Turkey and 
Persia as before the war, but among three nations. 

Soviet Russia has played to the nationalist ambitions of the Kurds. 
Communists go among the tribesmen, posing as their champions. 
Their propaganda preaches freedom and release; it promises a sep 
arate nation for this minority. It was in fact Communist manage 
ment that engineered a Kurdish state in northwest Persia in 1945. 

Divan Darreh is a small village in the southern part of ancient 
Kurdistan. We stopped there one day for lunch. A spring of clear 
cool water bubbled out of a pipe into a rock-lined pool in front of 
a mud-wall house where a detachment of soldiers was stationed. 
Only a few mud huts lined the dusty village street. A grove of 
willows by the side of this garrison offered the only shade. As I 
lighted a gasoline stove and cooked lunch from U. S. Army C 
rations, we talked of Kurds, of communism, of Divan Darreh. 

Kurdish Nationalism 57 

Divan Darreh means "The Valley of the Devil." How this drab 
village lying in a defile among low barren hills acquired the name, 
I do not know. It is a bleak place. In summer there is no touch 
of greenness to the low-cropped grazing land that extends in all 
directions as far as the eye can see. Occasional fields of wheat 
and barley with alternate stretches of fallow land mark a checker 
board in the valleys and on the lower reaches of the hills. This 
summer the fallow land had not been cultivated, and was covered 
with a rash of thistles, licorice root, and other weeds which I did 
not recognize. Men and women were gathering these scrub plants* 
compressing them into large disk-shaped bundles, and stacking them 
in the fields. Northwest Persia had had three hard winters, feed for 
livestock as well as for humans had been short. This next winter the 
goats, sheep, and donkeys would have to chew on weeds. 

A strong wind came up. It was a hot wind with a dry sting, 
It raced across the fallow land where the farmers were working, 
swirled dense clouds of dust down the shallow canyons, and 
whipped through the grove where I cooked lunch. In between its 
attacks a swarm of yellow jackets descended on our food. 

A soldier from the Persian garrison came up to volunteer a story. 
This village was on the southern border of the country controlled by 
a Soviet-supported government from 1945 to 1946. The Red Army 
had established not only the Pishevari government at Tabriz but 
also one at Mahabad under Qazi Mohammed. During this time 
many skirmishes took place at Divan Darreh between the Persian 
Army and the so-called Democrat forces of Mahabad. "Come, FI1 
show you," said the Iranian soldier. 

But I preferred to hear about Qazi Mohammed rather than to 
review battlegrounds. And so under the dusty willows at Divan 
Darreh I began to piece together the story of the Kurdish Republic 
of Mahabad. 

Kumela is an abbreviation for Committee of Kurdish Youth. 
It was a strongly nationalistic secret society formed in Mahabad 
in the summer of 1943 by a small group of young Kurds. No one 
could be a member unless he was a Kurd That meant that both 
his father and mother had to be Kurds, There was only one excep 
tion: the mother could be an Assyrian. 

Kumela flourished. It gained wide support among the tribes; 
it had branches even in Iraq and in Turkey. The Soviets saw in fa 

$8 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

a chance for sowing seeds of trouble, and before she withdrew her 
occupation troops in the spring of 1946, she had brought about an 
important event in the affairs of the Kurds. 

Kurds from Russia were attached to the Soviet consulate at 
Rezaieh as Communist agents, and encouraged Kumela in its na 
tionalist program. The Soviets, who had established in Persia various 
Iranian-Soviet Cultural Relations Societies, now founded in Mahabad 
a Kurdistan-Soviet Cultural Relations Society. This society and 
Kumela worked together. One night in the spring of 1945 they put 
on a play. The heroine was Mother Native Land; the villains were 
Iran, Iraq, and Turkey; the heroes were Kurds the sons of Mother 
Native Land. In the last agonizing minutes when it seemed that 
Mother was lost, the sons managed a daring and glorious rescue. The 
assembled Kurds wept and cheered. It was a moving drama, one 
that did more than any other single event to unite the Kurds behind 
the Kumela program. 

At this juncture the Soviets took a more direct part, approaching 
several prominent Kurds with the request that they take charge 
of the Kumela movement. One of the men they approached was 
my friend Arnar Khan Sharifi, chief of the Shakkak tribe tall, 
thin, patrician, now over seventy-five years old. They all refused. 
Then the Soviets picked Qazi Mohammed of Mahabad, a middle- 
aged Kurd. 

I never met Qazi Mohammed; but from all reports he was a dis 
tinguished member of one of the most respected Kurdish families. He 
was a religious leader among the Kurds and a devout Moslem 
indeed, a judge in the Moslem ecclesiastical court. He was well edu 
cated and spoke French, Russian, and English. Something of an 
aesthete, he was a man of deep convictions and great courage; and 
for a rime he was a willing tool of Soviet policy. 

The next Soviet step was to supplant Kumela with an organiza 
tion more amenable to Soviet policy. The Communist party in 
Persia was the Tudeh party. Qazi Mohammed, after a trip at Rus 
sian expense to Baku for a conference with Soviet officials in the 
fall of 1945, announced the formation of the Democrat party of 
Kurdistan. He and over a hundred other Kurds signed the announce 
ment, which referred to the victory over fascism; the hope for 
liberation which all peoples saw in the Atlantic Charter; and the 
manner in which the Kurds had suffered under Persian rule, par- 

Kurdish Nationalism 5$ 

ticularly under Reza Shah. Its appeal was nationalistic: "We have 
our own history, language, traditions, customs and habits which 
are our characteristics* Why should our rights be discarded in 
this way? Why should we not be allowed to educate our children 
in their own language? Why will they not permit Kurdistan to be 
autonomous and to be administered by the Provincial Council 
which the Constitutional Law allows? " 

The Kurds on the whole rallied to the party, many because it 
appealed to their nationalist pride, others because the Democrats 
offered an attractive program. The older generation and those in 
positions of authority with the tribes joined reluctantly and with 
reservations. They were suspicious of Soviet backing; yet they did 
not desire to risk liquidation at the hands of the occupying Red 
Army should they refuse. 

The Soviets mustered one rabid band of Kurds behind the Demo 
crats a renegade group of armed soldiers led by Mulla Mustafa 
Barzani, a refugee from Iraq. His forces, well-armed and well- 
trained, reported to Qazi Mohammed for duty and became the 
central core of his military strength. 

On December 15, 1945, t ^ e Kurdish Democrat party met at 
Mahabad, inaugurated a Kurdish People s Government, and raised 
the Kurdish flag. A parliament assembled; and in January, 1946, 
Qazi Mohammed was elected President. A cabinet was formed, 
composed of tribal chiefs, merchants, landlords, and officials. There 
was no member of the proletariat in the entire government. My 
friend Amar Khan Sharifi was for a while the Minister of War and 
for a while Marshal of the Army. Once I asked him why he went 
into the cabinet. "To save my own neck," he replied wryly. 

During 1946 there were skirmishes between the Kurdistan forces 
and the Iranian Army, some of which took place at Divan Darreh. 
Mulla Mustafa Barzani supplied most of the army for Qazi Mo 
hammed. Amar Khan Sharifi raised a few troops. But when the 
Persian Army came in full force in December, 1946, it met with little 
opposition. Soviet Russia was supposed to have promised Qazi 
Mohammed military support; but it gave none. Amar Khan s forces 
offered no resistance. He in fact pledged his loyalty to the Persian 
government. The anti-Soviet attitude among most of the Kurds was 
very strong. Only Barzani held out. The Persian Army entered 
Mahabad on December 15, 1946 without a shot being fired. Their 

60 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

reception was friendly. But the era of apparent good will was short 
lived. Qazi Mohammed and several of his cabinet were imprisoned; 
eleven lesser tribal chiefs of the Kurds were shot; and on January 
3, 1947 Qazi Mohammed and two of his cabinet were hanged at 
Mahabad. Barzani, who had retreated to Iraq, swept back into Persia 
in the spring of 1947, fought his way through the Persian Army, 
and passed through western Azerbaijan into Russia. 

I went to Mahabad on a hot August day. There was not a cloud 
in the sky and the sun beat down with fierce intensity. There is 
no sky so clear and blue as Persia s sky. That day it was so bright, 
so transparent that Mahabad took on a mystic quality it seemed 
that one could indeed see into infinity. 

Mahabad is south of Lake Urmia Persia s Great Salt Lake and 
east by about seventy-five miles from the main Zagros Mountains. It 
lies in rolling hill country. The slopes are brown by August. There is 
some irrigation from a small river; occasional fields are green with 
corn, melons, tobacco. The only other touches of color are the 
poplars and willows that line the river bank. When the stream 
reaches Mahabad it is slow and sluggish. A small dam has been 
constructed to form a pool in the middle of the town, and the day 
I arrived dark-skinned, naked boys were playing like porpoises in 
it. Ladies, dressed in full black skirts and black shawls that hung 
so low they concealed their blouses, sat under trees tending small 
children. A few young women dressed in gayer colors pounded 
clothes on rocks that line the pool. 

The streets of Mahabad were practically bare except for grinning 
boys, ten or twelve years old, who sold sticky, brown-colored candy 
the size of golf balls, round and bulging with walnuts and covered 
with flies. A bazaar led off the main street. It was a sort of compound, 
about a half-block square. Stalls of artisans and merchants were 
packed close together. There were the smells of coffee, candies, 
roasting ears, leather, spices, lamb on skewers being broiled over 
charcoal. There was the noise of hammers striking metal. Deep- 
throated calls of the stall holders filled the compound. 

The traditional dress for Kurdish men is strikingly beautiful: 
a blue turban, usually made of silk and decorated with tassels; a 
brightly embroidered vest; coarse wool pants gray or black that 
are loose and baggy; a large sash or kamarband usually bright red 

Kurdish Nationalism 61 

that is wound around the waist and tied elaborately in front. 
There is usually a dagger or two sticking out from this waistband 
and sometimes a pipe. 

The men in the bazaars at Mahabad were all Kurds mostly 
stocky and broad-shouldered, with white teeth and heavy dark eye 
brows, swarthy complexions, high foreheads and prominent noses, 
dark piercing eyes. Though they were dressed in more somber 
colors than their traditional costume, most of them wore bright- 
colored waistbands and some had blue or gray turbans. And prac 
tically every one of them had a dagger in his belt. I was to discover 
that a Kurd is a robust, hearty friend. But that day each of them 
looked bloodthirsty. 

I learned at Mahabad some of the tactics and accomplishments of 
Qazi Mohammed and his Democrats. During his year of power 
many things had happened that stirred the Kurds. 

The Kurdish costume, which had been banned by Reza Shah, 
came back into use. 

Schools were provided for every child through the sixth grade. 

Textbooks for the primary schools were printed in Kurdish. 

A newspaper, a periodical, and two literary magazines were pub 
lished. A printing press had been supplied by the Soviets. 

Qazi Mohammed attached to his staff two young poets Hazhar 
and Hieman who wrote not only of Kurdistan and its glories 
but of Stalin and the Red Army as well. 

A constitution was prepared. It proposed a Kurdish state that 
was republican in character. It pledged the state to defend the 
interests of Kurdish workers and to create unions for their better 
ment. It proclaimed that "People should be educated irrespective 
of race, religion, or sex." It announced that women should have 
all the "political, economic, and social rights that men enjoy." 

The Kurds are Moslems; and under Islamic law women have a 
very inferior position. But the Kurds in practice have tradi 
tionally given women a more exalted role. Kurdish women are not 
veiled, and have more social freedom than most Moslem women. A 
Kurdish woman is indeed sometimes found as the head of a tribe* 
And so the proclamation of equal rights for women was not so 
revolutionary as it would have been in other parts of the Moslem 

Qazi Mohammed needed a program of reform if he was to get 

6z Strange Lands and Friendly People 

mass support from the people. The lot of the average Kurd is misery. 
Illiterate, and with few or no educational opportunities, he lives 
at the subsistence level He knows practically nothing about modern 
agriculture. Even if he did, he would not benefit from his knowl 
edge, for most Kurds are serfs working for a khan or some other 
landlord on shares and perpetually in debt. Qazi Mohammed knew 
the power of the landowners and the political astuteness needed 
if real measures of reform were to be realized. 

Moreover, if his program of reform were to be popular with the 
people, he had to remove the suspicion that it was the creature of 
the godless Soviet regime. In general the Kurds are devout Moslems 
and deeply religious. I have come across them in the remote moun 
tains, on their knees, facing Mecca, and bowing in prayer until their 
foreheads touched the ground. Many of their affairs are managed 
by mullahs (priests). The Koran is to them a sacred book. More 
over, the Kurds, unlike most Persians, are orthodox Moslems: they 
take the Koran literally and completely. And so the Kurd no 
matter how wild and ruthless he may appear has rather strict 
religious standards. 

And so Qazi Mohammed put his scholars to work to find in the 
Koran and in the teachings of the Prophet principles necessary for 
his reforms. What he would have done, how he would have pro 
ceeded to put through a program of reform no one can tell. We 
only know that his basic political approach was through the Moslem 
religion. So far as I could learn he had taken but one specific step 
under the guidance of the Koran. He had banned usury. 

That alone gave him great support among the peasants. In Persia 
the lawful interest rate on agricultural loans is 12 per cent. But as 
the story of Karim and Fatima shows, it is not unusual to find loans 
to farmers at 40 per cent or more. The money lender is usually the 
landlord. He rents the land on shares that may leave only a fourth 
or a fifth or even less for the tenant. Once the tenant gets into 
debt to the landlord he is a perpetual serf. Interest alone eats up 
the crop and keeps him in eternal poverty. When the landlord is a 
khan and the tenant a member of the tribe, more considerate terms 
are apt to be arranged and the tenant not so badly bled. But 
even legal interest is a heavy cross to impoverished people. 

Qazi Mohammed stood, not for separation from Persia, but for 
autonomy within it, claiming that the Kurds stemmed from the 

Kurdish Nationalism 63 

ancient Medes and, like their forebears, had a natural and historic 
role to perform in partnership with the Persians. He wanted Kurdi 
stan to promote the revival and development of Kurdish culture. 
There was a good economic reason for his insistence that Kurdistan 
be tied to Persia rather than to Russia. The Kurds raise much 
tobacco; and their market for it is to be found in Persia. 

There is strong evidence that although Qazi Mohammed used the 
Soviet power to get his republic established, he planned to develop 
it along democratic lines. In the latter months of his regime he was 
in constant touch with the American foreign service in this area, 
seeking American support and endeavoring to be rid of his de 
pendency on his Soviet sponsors. 

But the khans deserted him not because of his program of re 
form, but because of his Soviet support. The Kurds have a long 
memory. They know that Russia is opposed to their religion. They 
have heard refugees from Russia describe the terror that Russia 
pours upon anyone who does not conform to the Soviet political 
creed. They remember Russian troops under the Czar murdering 
and plundering in Kurdistan and burning whole villages. Their 
memories of Russians are so poignant that in a Kurdish camp a 
mother will quiet a crying child by whispering, "Hush or the Rus 
sians will hear you." 

I forded the river at Mahabad and started out of town to the road 
that leads down from Maku. In the shade of some poplars by the 
side of the road a man stood selling grapes. A woman had brought 
two quarts or so of meal to barter for grapes. The merchant, un 
mindful of the teachings of the Koran, drove an evil bargain: for 
two quarts of precious cereal he would give two quarts of second- 
rate grapes. While this bargain was being consummated, a young 
Kurd and his wife came down the shaded road. He rode a donkey; 
she walked proudly by his side. We exchanged greetings. 

"Where is your home?" I asked. 

"Near Khoy, way up north," he replied. 

"What are you doing down here?" 

"We are Kurds," he said. "We are making a pilgrimage. We come 
to pray at the grave of Qazi Mohammed." There was a note of 
defiance in his voice; and his eyes, as well as the dagger ^in his belt, 
conveyed a resolution to meet any challenge to his mission. 

$4 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

The grave of Qazi Mohammed is indeed a shrine; hundreds of 
Kurds flock there each week to worship. The hanging of this 
Kurdish hero killed only the man, not the idea of Kurdish inde 
pendence. His death in fact gave the idea new impetus. In the eyes 
of the simple peasants who walk hundreds of miles to pay homage 
to his memory, Qazi Mohammed was a good man who gave his 
life that their dream might come true. 

6. Once a Kurd Always a Kurd 

MULLA MUSTAFA BARZANi was well received in Russia after the fall 
of the Kurdish Republic of Mahabad. Having fought both the 
Iraqi army (defeating it twice in 1945) and the Persian Army, he 
was a ready instrument of Soviet policy. Moreover, he brought 
with him a sizable force, numbering about three thousand armed 
Kurds. Some were tribesmen; others were deserters from the Iraqi 
army; some were British-trained officers. 

From 1947 to 1950 the Russians built BarzanTs army up to the 
strength of ten thousand, gave it intensive training, equipped it with 
tanks, armored cars, and the Russian repeater gun. It even had an 
air force. Some eighty Kurds were sent to a Soviet air corps school 
and given training as pilots. 

The Russians curry favor with the Kurds under Barzani, granting 
them more liberal rations of food than Soviet subjects normally 
receive. The rations are indeed so liberal that the Kurds have a 
surplus, which they sell on the black market in Armenia S.S.R.; 
and Russian officers wink at the offense. The morale of Barzani s 
army in the summer of 1950 was high for another reason. The 
Soviets furnished his camps with a liberal supply of girls for the 
entertainment of the troops. 

In the summer of 1950 Barzani s forces were poised along the 
Russian border in northwest Persia, ready to strike. High-flying 
planes from Russia dropped leaflets on the Kurds in this area. Printed 
in Kurdish, Turkish, and Persian, they related how long-suffering 
the Kurds had been; described the sacrifices and sorrows they had 
endured; and deplored that their struggle for independence had 
failed to date. The leaflets went on to say that the Kurds would 
not have long to wait, that the "democratic forces" of Russia would 
liberate them, that the Kurds could then have their own republic. 


66 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

The Soviet timetable for invasion along this southern perimeter 
seems to have been July 15 to August 15, 1950. There was indeed a 
great massing of forces at these points. What happened in Korea 
seemed about to be repeated. I arrived at the Russian border 
August 1 8, 1950. A few days earlier Barzani s troops had been with 
drawn. The Soviet timetable had been changed. And it was thought 
at Maku that the change was due to the success (up to that time) 
of the United Nations forces in Korea. 

Maku lies near the tip end of the long finger of land in northwest 
Persia that is surrounded by Turkey on the left and Russia on the 
right. It is a town of perhaps five thousand people lying at the 
mouth of a gorge. On the east a mountain range ends in a towering 
cliff about a half mile long and twelve hundred feet high; less than 
a mile to the west is another mountain about as high. In between 
runs a small shallow stream, the Maku River, Its gorge opens to the 
north onto a broad rolling plain. 

A part of Maku lies along the river bank, where a few homes of 
the rich fill the spot with trees and lush gardens. But most of Maku 
lies up the hill under the cliff, which has crumbled and worn at 
the base to form a huge overhang. The main town is built under 
that roof. Houses of rocks and mud stand on great slabs that 
have broken from the mountain. The cliff has numerous caves. 
Centuries ago a fortress was built here. There is even a spring 
high on its sides that could in older days keep a beleaguered populace 
supplied with water. 

We passed through the gorge and entered the rolling plain. 
Straight ahead is Turkey. On the right perhaps ten miles distant 
is a long stretch of barren hills a ridge around seven thousand feet 
high that marks the Russian border. Ahead about twenty miles is 
Mount Ararat. This mountain, which towers nearly seventeen 
thousand feet high, seemed dim and remote in the dusk, almost like 
a mirage of a peak. A streamer of clouds hung below its crest. The 
volcanic ash, spewed down its slopes from ancient eruptions, had 
a velvety sheen in the evening s haze. From this angle its sides had 
somewhat the symmetry of an inverted cone; but the tip was not 
pointed; like Mount Adams of our Cascade Range Ararat has a false 
top before the true one is reached. Flecks of snow were scattered on 
the upper third of the mountain great snow fields that stay there 

Once a Kurd Always a Kurd 67 

the year round. To the right was Little Ararat two-thirds the 
size of its parent and carved more precisely in the image of an 
inverted cone. It was dark and somber in the gathering dusk, too 
low to have any touch of gray on its crown. 

We stayed that night about ten miles out of Maku at Baghcheh 
Jough a palace built about a century ago by a khan who made it 
a showcase of his wealth. There are terraces of apple orchards 
and gardens, and a beautiful pool. The ceilings are high; the rooms 
spacious; the decorations are gold and cut glass. The walls of the 
bedrooms have life-sized paintings of beautiful and voluptuous 

The khan who built Baghcheh Jough not only had great wealth; 
he had an army as well. He left a son who commanded a prin 
cipality at the head of this dangerous Persian corridor. Reza Shah, 
deciding the son should be deposed, sent the Persian Army against 
him and defeated him in battle; then he stripped the palace clean, 
taking away all the movable property. I talked to a peasant who 
worked on the palace grounds at that time. 

"It took seven camels to carry the loot away," he told me. 

This August night was cool from a wind that swept off Ararat. 
I watched the stars come out behind the mountain and sat at the 
edge of a row of apple trees talking with natives about its glories. 
Ararat is where Noah landed the Ark. Marco Polo called it the 
Mountain of the Ark of Noah, and to this day many Persians call 
it the Mountain of Noah. Legend has it that the first vineyards of 
the world grew on Ararat s slopes. Its grapes made the wine with 
which survival from the Deluge was celebrated. One peasant at 
Maku said that it was from Ararat that the wise men saw the star 
over Bethlehem. 

The legend of Ararat and the Ark will not die. The summer 
before I came to Ararat a group of Bible students had explored it, 
looking for remnants of the Ark. Some at Maku believe they can be 

In the morning Ararat was only the ghost of a mountain seen 
dimly through a mist. The hot air rises early from the plain, strikes 
the snow fields, and condenses into vapor. That is why in the 
summer the best views of Ararat are at night. I rode across the 
plain already drenched in the sunlight of a brilliant day. Persian 

68 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

regiments were practicing their maneuvers on the slopes leading to 

This is country that the Russians frequently raid, probing and 
punching in an endeavor to see how strong their southern neighbor 
is* In the summer of 1949 t ie ra ids were numerous. On one foray 
they captured a half-dozen Persian soldiers in an outpost, and kept 
them a year. I studied the passes through which the Soviets might 
someday come and looked down at the gorge at Maku through 
which they could roar like a flood. The ridge marking the Russian 
border a few miles to the north looked peaceful and innocent this 
morning. Behind it lay the famous Araxes River which Russia has 
closed to all traffic. Between five and six o clock in the evening 
people are allowed to come down to it for water at designated 
places. On its banks are barbed-wire fences that run the length of 
the border. Behind the barbed wire are land mines not mines that 
explode but mines that cause alarms to ring or rockets to rise, ex 
posing the intruders. Great secrecy hangs over this border, and 
transit across it is forbidden. Even the Kurds have little intercourse 
with Russia. Years ago the Soviets suspected their Moslem popula 
tion and throughout this particular region moved them away from 
the border and resettled them in the back country. 

In August, 1950, there was great tension in the region of Maku. 
Would Russia invade? Would the United States "let" the Kurds have 
an independent province or state in Persia? Would the United 
Nations help the Kurds against Russia as it helped the South 

But a different kind of trouble also brewed. The Maku region 
has a population as poor as any in the Middle East. A third of the 
people are Kurds, roaming with meager herds on poor marginal 
land between Persia and Turkey. Most of the rich bottom lands are 
owned by a few men who are not Kurds, and who live in Tehran, 
Paris, London. They represent the worst of absentee landlords. For 
example, during the severe winter of 1949-1950 the landlords held 
their grain for higher prices; the peasants starved. How many died 
in and around Maku I do not know, but the total was in the 
hundreds. Russia sent relief. Russian relief reached there before the 
relief sent by the Persian government. 

I talked with Mostafa Vakili, Governor of Maku, a young liberal 
of high caliber and high ideals, a credit to the government of the 

Once a Kurd Always a Kurd 6$ 

late Razmara who was pushing for reforms. In reviewing the eco 
nomic plight of the tribesmen and the peasants in this area, he told 
me of a challenging program he had under way. 

This vast valley has rich land and can produce great quantities 
of food. Vakili has worked out a plan that will rid the region of 
some of the evils of absentee ownership. The land is to be pooled 
so that it can be managed by a co-operative. Modern machinery 
will be brought in; scientific farming will be introduced; savings on 
purchases will be effected by central procurement; marketing will 
be done through the co-operative. 

How the land was to be acquired from the landlords or, if not 
acquired, how their share of the profits were to be worked out had 
not been determined in the summer of 1950. But Vakili knows 
that reform in the Middle East begins with the land. He knows 
that the only political antidote to communism in this region is a 
program of social justice that is reflected in the lives of the peasants. 
"We can make Maku an outstanding example of what can be done 
in a co-operative democratic way," he told me. 

As my jeep turned and started its long journey south, Maku and 
its problems tumbled through my head. There it lies under the 
shadow of the Russian border, seething with unrest. The unrest 
stems principally from poverty and starvation. They in turn result 
from an agricultural serfdom. 

Then I thought, why not make Maku the show window of 
democracy? A land-distribution program, modern houses, schools, 
churches, roads, hospitals all these could be had for a tiny fraction 
of the billions appropriated for foreign aid and lost through the 
drainpipes of fraud and corruption. We can build factories in Italy 
to make a few men rich. Why not build on the Soviet border at one 
of the most troubled spots in the whole world a model, demo 
cratic community? Then when people ask, What does America 
stand for in her foreign policy?" we could proudly reply, "Maku." 

Maku would speak louder than any propaganda; no better barrier 
to communism could be built. Maku would be a shining example 
of democratic ideals. It would be a powerful revolutionary force 
working by its own example to uproot the feudal system that 
stretches from the Mediterranean to the Pacific. Yet today Vakili 
makes bricks without straws; and works singlehanded to hold his 
community against the depredations of the landlords on the one 

jo Strange Lands and Friendly People 

hand and the savage propaganda of the Communists on the other. 

All the way to the bleak village of Askar Abad where I cooked 
lunch this idea pounded in my head. I thought of Washington, D.C., 
and speeches of democracy and peace and containment of com 
munism. Those words were flat and meaningless in the environment 
of Maku. Democracy and peace? Containment of communism? 
Why was not the mighty voice of America raised against govern 
ments of landlords? Why was it not pleading the cause of the 
peasants? No foreign policy would make sense at this farflung 
outpost unless it was cast in those terms. 

Yet in August, 1950, there was still time to keep the masses from 
going over to Soviet Russia. I learned at Maku that while the 
border people think the individual Russians are good neighbors, 
they fear and distrust Soviet Russia. They know that Russia would 
devour them. In spite of their misery and suffering there are very 
few Communists among these border people. 

Two Kurdish tribes the Jalali and the Milani, numbering over 
two thousand families each live in the neighborhood of Maku. 
They winter on the Russian border and in the summer move south 
along the Turkish frontier for grazing. Their khans were im 
prisoned by Reza Shah, who tried to settle the tribesmen in villages. 
He had mud houses built for them and underground caves for their 
cattle. But those restraints were temporary and unsuccessful. Today 
these Kurds are nomads, hostile to the Persian Army and friendly 
to their neighbors, the Russians. I learned that Omar Agha Omoei, 
one of the Milani khans, helped Barzani, for a fee of five hundred 
gold pieces, find a short cut to Soviet territory when he was fighting 
the Persian Army. The Jalali and Milani Kurds are said to be in 
regular contact with Soviet agents who maintain friendly relations 
with the tribes. During World War II some of these Kurds in fact 
acted as agents for the Soviet Army. Russia, however, had many 
allies at that time. She undoubtedly has a hold on some of these 
Kurds today. But I was convinced that by and large the friendliness 
of these Kurds to Russia was the friendliness of one neighbor for 
another, not friendliness born of a common ideology. 

I learned three things from my visit among the Kurds. First: 
Kurdish nationalism is in the marrow of these tribesmen deeper 
than any creed or dogma. They want a state of their own, one in 
which they have a degree of self-government. But their basic loyalty 

Once a Kurd Always a Kurd 77 

is to Persia. There it will remain. They have pride in the tradition 
that they are the Medes. They have pride in their historic role 
border patrol. Neither their misery and poverty nor Communist 
propaganda have altered those articles of their faith. 

Second: The Kurds have a saying, "The world is a rose; smell it 
and pass it to your friends." That philosophy represents today a 
yearning for a better life, an opportunity to be freed from a serfdom 
that often means death, that always means poverty and misery. 
There are good things in life; and the Kurds propose to have them. 
The Kurds have never had great political leadership nor known the 
art of government. But they have staying qualities that others have 
lacked. They are the ones that harassed and plagued the ten thousand 
Greek troops under Xenophon who retreated through Persia to the 
Black Sea in 401 B.C. Today they are true to character. They will 
plague any power that stands in the way of social justice. 

Third: At Maku I talked with people about Barzani. Some feared 
him. Others distrusted him. A lesser khan of the Kurds, though hold 
ing no brief for Barzani, felt that there were extenuating circum 
stances. As a refugee from both Iraq and Persia, Barzani was welcome 
only in Russia. This khan argued for Barzani s return to Persia, be 
lieving Persia would gain greatly from this move. Russia would be 
deprived of its greatest Kurdish ally. A Kurdish province could be 
formed a province with local autonomy but loyal to the central 
government at Tehran. Barzani, he maintained, would be a loyal 
supporter of that regime. 

I asked how he could be so sure; why it was not likely that Bar 
zani, if he were brought back, would work for the Soviet interests 
and turn the Kurdish state into a Soviet puppet. 

The Kurd rose and looked at me several minutes before answer 
ing. There was pride in his face, and the words came with precision. 

"There is one thing people forget," he said. "Once a Kurd always 
a Kurd. On that I will stake my life." 

7. Sons Are an Ornament 

THE WELCOME which a Kurdish tribe gives a guest is not only hearty 
it is a bloody affair as welL On the outskirts of the village a dele 
gation of men hold a steer ready for the slaughter, and as the gues 
approaches, one of them stabs the animal in the throat. There i 
the last agonizing moment when the steer lets loose a bloody, gur 
gling bellow before it is dragged across the road, leaving a stream o; 
blood in its wake. The guest then steps across the blood. Th< 
executioner saws vigorously on the neck of the beast until the heac 
is severed, Then he heaves it to the side of the road and the khan oj 
other ranking host turns to the guest, takes him by the hand, anc 
says in a loud, ringing voice, "May that happen to the heads of all 
your enemies." 

It is a robust, primitive, and genuine welcome. The ceremony is 
not the Asian equivalent of one of our stereotyped greetings. The 
sacrifice builds a bond of blood between guest and host. The new 
arrival is now a member of the tribe. He has special privileges, too. 
Every last man will give his life to defend him. Every man, woman 
and child will cater to his needs and show him every courtesy. We 
of the Western world have no acquaintance with that quality of 
hospitality. It is a pledge of friendship and fealty. 

In origin it was an expression of gratitude that the guest had 
arrived safely and in good health. The best way of showing thanks 
was to kill something precious to the host. In ancient days when a 
Persian king came to a village or a tribe, the head man would go 
through the motions of killing a son, since an heir would be closest 
to his heart. And the villagers or tribesmen, playing their part, 
would rush in and prevent it. The king, understanding the play, 
would be deeply moved. 
I usually managed to avoid the slaughter of the steer by having 

Sons Are an Ornament 73 

an interpreter rush forward with a request that the animal be re 
leased. There was no offense in that request. The welcome was still 
warm and hearty; and a needless sacrifice was avoided. It was just 
as well there was no sacrifice at Zindasht. It would have been a messy 
as well as a bloody affair, for we arrived just about dark. 

Amar Khan Sharifi stood on the outskirts of the village to greet 
us. With him stood his twelve sons from forty-eight to eight 
years old. At a respectful distance behind him stood a group of 

Amar Khan, over six feet tall, sparsely built, trim, with a head 
of close-cropped gray hair, stepped forward to greet me. He took 
my hand in both of his and held it for at least five minutes while we 
talked through my interpreter, 

He opened the conversation by saying, "Welcome to Zindasht." 

My reply was, "I bring you greetings from a man who has a real 
affection for you and your people George Allen." 

George Allen, present American Ambassador to Yugoslavia, had 
met Amar Khan while Ambassador to Persia. That was during the 
Kumela days. When Amar Khan joined the cabinet of Qazi Mo 
hammed, he kept in touch with George Allen and threw his weight 
against the Soviet influence in that government. After the Mahabad 
government fell, and Amar Khan stood in danger of being hanged 
along with Qazi Mohammed, George Allen pleaded Amar Khan s 
case before the Shah, winning both the case and Amar Khan s de 

Undoubtedly the memory of this was in Amar Khan s mind as 
he answered: "Anyone who is George Allen s friend is my friend." 

He motioned to his sons, who came up in the order of their age, 
the oldest first. He introduced each one. 

"Hossein Judge Douglas." And so it went Mohammed, Mu 
stafa, Nasser, and so on until each had shaken my hand. The sons 
now stood in a crescent around Amar Khan and me. Turning to 
them Amar Khan spoke as follows: "The Judge is one of us. Our 
homes are now his. Anything he wants he can have. Always stay 
close to him and protect him. See that no harm comes to him what 
ever it may cost." 

Turning to me he said, "You are now one of us. This is your 
home. Come and go as you please. Anything we can do for your 
comfort and pleasure we will do." 

74 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

We walked fifty yards or so, climbing a low height of land where 
Amar Khan s house stands. It is a large compound built around a 
garden and housing 103 people. 

A dark hallway with a rough stone floor stood at the head of 
steep stairs also made of rock. To the right was a large room about 
thirty by eighteen lighted by Coleman gasoline lanterns. It was 
completely bare, except for several Persian rugs on the floor and 
three straight-backed wooden chairs in a corner. I stood at the far 
end of the room waiting for some signal. Nothing happened. Every 
one remained standing and silent. Kazi, my interpreter, whispered 
in my ear, "They are waiting for you to sit down." 

"Where do I sit?" I whispered. 

"The chairs are for you. But Amar Khan always sits on the floor." 

Down I sat on the floor, my knees under me. I was on Amar 
Khan s right. On his left were his sons, seated according to their 
age, his oldest next to him. Amar Khan seldom wears a hat. But 
his sons do; and as is the custom in Persia, they kept them on in 
doors. A short stocky man, dark and swarthy, came in with water 
and a basin. He too wore a hat; but his shoes were off. He put the 
basin in front of me, gave me soap, and then poured warm water 
from the goosenecked pitcher over my hands. When each of my 
party had washed, the servant returned with a huge linen table 
cloth and placed it on the rugs the whole length of the floor. Then 
he set the table and brought in dishes of food. 

While this was going on Amar Khan and I talked. He is a soft- 
spoken man with a quiet, musical voice. There is not a trace of 
bluster in him; but he speaks with emphasis and authority. He has 
a patrician look high forehead, prominent nose, soft gray eyes, 
a relaxed, composed face. He is trim and agile, and his seventy- 
eight years had left little mark on him in the summer of 1950. 

He has spent ten years of his life in jail, most of it in Turkey, for 
he fought the Turks in World War I and went to jail as a conse 
quence. But in spite of his long periods of isolation he has raised a 
large family. He has had six wives, two of them Turkish. In 1950 
he had twelve living sons. How many daughters he had I could 
not learn. One does not easily discuss the females in the environment 
of the Islamic faith. Nor do I know how many children were born 
to him. In urban Persia about 80 percent of the children die before 
they reach the age of one, usually from dysentery. The mortality 

Sons Are an Ornament 75- 

among the children of the tribes is probably lower, owing to better 
water and healthier living conditions in the mountains. Yet even 
so, Amar Khan s total offspring must have well exceeded seventy- 
five. J 

The Kurds of this border area are a taciturn people reserved and 
quiet. Their conversation is as cryptic as that of the classic Ver- 
monter. The sons this night did not say a word. And I soon dis 
covered that if there were to be conversation, I would have to 
supply most of it, as Amar Khan is a man of few words. 

I told him where I had been on my trips in Persia. His laconic 
comment was, "Persia is honored to have you as a guest." 
^ I mentioned that we had used practically every means of travel- 
air, rail, bus, jeep, horse, and on foot. His comment was brief, "God 
has given us many modes of travel and we must use them all." 

I said that from Zindasht we planned to travel horseback to 
Rezaieh, a lovely city on the shores of Lake Urmia. He said cryp 
tically, "I cannot discuss that." 

I said I would like to get advice from him how far it was to 
Rezaieh, the best route, etc. 

He answered, "As long as you are my guest I cannot discuss your 

I thanked him for the sentiment behind those words but said that 
we had to do some forward planning. 

"Should you later decide you must leave, then we will have time 
to talk of Rezaieh. But you are now my guest. There will be no 
more discussion of your departure." 

I changed the talk to Communist propaganda, wondering how 
well-acquainted he and the Kurds were with it. I had been amazed 
at the number of radios I had already seen south of the Soviet 
border, where, I had learned, the most popular radio program was 
the Voice of India. The clandestine Soviet radio in Azerbaijan was 
second; B.B.C. was third. Now the Voice of America has been 
reorganized and rates high; but in the summer of 1950 it was 
somewhere near the bottom. I was anxious to discover if the Kurds 
also had radios, and if so, what programs they listened to. 

I discussed these matters with Amar Khan and inquired if he had 
a radio. It was as if I had asked a business man in Portland, Oregon, 
if Portland had a Chamber of Commerce or a Rotary Club. 

"Certainly I do," Amar Khan replied in a surprised voice. He 

76 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

said something to one of his young sons who immediately brought 
a large battery set with a wide short-wave range. 

"What stations can you get?" 

"Practically any. Which would you like?" 

"Let s hear the Moscow radio." 

And so for a few minutes we listened to a harsh Russian voice, 
charged with invective. Amar Khan turned it off and for the first and 
only time during my visit became talkative. He discussed Korea. At 
that time it seemed questionable whether the United Nations could 
gather enough momentum in time to hold their initial beachheads. 
Amar Khan spoke of this; he expressed the belief that America 
had temporized too much, that it should never have let North 
Korea build up its military might. He spoke of the dangers of com 
munism; he discussed its methods of operation and its use of terroi 
as an instrument of government. Here in a border region of Persia 
I was receiving a seminar on communism an informed and intelli 
gent discussion of it. There were no newspapers here, no magazines, 
I did not realize at the time that Amar Khan was practically illiterate 
and probably could not have read them had they been available. 
But he has a remarkable facility for analysis and an instinct for the 
relevant. I complimented him on his understanding of the Com 
munist issue. He bowed and thanked me; and then dismissed it with 
the words: "We have eyes" referring to the former Kumela gov 
ernment and the activities of the Soviets in northwest Persia; "We 
have ears" referring to the radio. 

All this time we sat on the floor. During our discussion the food 
was brought in. Kazi whispered, "No one will start eating until 
you do." 

It was an elaborate meal: a thick barley soup, several kinds of 
rice, Iamb on long skewers broiled over charcoal, broiled chicken, 
goat cheese, thin waferlike bread, cucumbers, tomatoes, various 
jams and jellies, and large dishes of stewed wild plums. I later dis 
covered the wild plum trees as I crossed the ravines behind Zindasht 
to climb some of the ridges. This evening I followed Amar Khan s 
example and learned that one of the real delicacies of Persia is stewed 
wild plums (with plenty of juice) on boiled rice. 

After the dishes were removed the servant rolled up the table 
cloth and returned with a tray of piping hot tea and lumps of coarse 
sugar. I knew that somewhere in the recesses of this large house 

Sons Are cm Ornament 77 

were women servants the ones who cooked the delicious meal, the 
ones who would wash the dirty dishes. But in my stay at Zindasht 
no woman of the house ever appeared. Once I looked up at a 
second-story window and saw the quick withdrawal of a face a 
woman had been furtively watching the goings-on. Never once did 
one participate in any of the festivities, except the dances. I wanted 
to extend to them through Amar Khan my appreciation for the de 
licious meal. I said as much and added, "You have wonderful cooks." 
He bowed his head and replied, "God has been good to me." 
We talked of horses, hunting, Barzani, and the legends of Mount 
Ararat until fatigue overtook me. I somehow managed to unlock 
my knees and stand erect. Everyone stood. I excused myself. Amar 
Khan bowed; so did each of his sons. "God be with you," he said. 
And the short swarthy servant showed us to our room, which was 
immediately off the room where we dined. It too was bare, except 
for rugs. Two small windows about five feet from the floor gave 
light and air. We laid our sleeping bags on air mattresses, put up 
our tents of mosquito netting, and went to sleep. 

The sun was high when I awoke. A cock was crowing; and there 
was a chatter of birds I did not recognize from an orchard outside 
DUT window. The creek where one washed and the toilet were out- 
;ide; one had to pass through the dining hall to reach them. I opened 
:he door and found Amar Khan and all his sons seated on the floor, 
sating their breakfast. They rose at once. I motioned to them to 
it; but they remained standing. When I re-entered the room after 
ny toilet, they once more stood up and would not sit down until I 
oined them. 

Breakfast was typically Persian: tea, thin waferlike bread, cheese, 
narmalade, and cucumbers. This too was a silent meal. In the middle 
>f it I heard in the distance the sound of a horn and a drum. It 
ame closer and closer, until in a few minutes it was right under 
be window where Amar Khan and I sat. 

He turned to me and said, "My people want to put on some dances 
Dr you. When you are ready they will start." I was to learn that 
lese dances are robust affairs. This band or orchestra played four 
ours without missing a beat; and the male dancers danced for ten 
ours without more than a few minutes rest every hour or so. 

The music of the dances is monotonous, loud, and primitive. It 

7# Strange Lands and Friendly People 

is as robust as the Kurds themselves and lacks the plaintive qualities 
of the music of the south. The horn is a crude instrument. The drum 
is a conventional type, beaten unmercifully with a sawed-off cane. 
The themes vary from war to hunting to love. Some of the most 
popular tunes are Yarpeyda (My Beloved Can Be Seen) and Yar 
guzal (Beautiful Beloved). 

Three or four men will start off; holding hands, dancing in unison, 
and moving clockwise around the orchestra. Sometimes they jump 
high in the air, bend low to the ground, and kick, and stomp with 
vigor, Russian style. When men and women dance together the 
two lines joined there is no touch of abandon. The steps are 
then staid and stiff; there is no whirling or stomping; the move 
ment is as simple as our one-step. The women dancers always 
carry large, bright-colored handkerchiefs tied with a string to 
one of their fingers. Their costumes are brilliant, their skirts full 
and flowing. 

The Shakkak tribe in olden days migrated with the seasons, com 
ing down to Lake Urmia in the winter and combing the mountains 
that lie toward Turkey in the summer. But today this tribe, like a 
majority of the Kurds, is sedentary. Amar Khan lives in Rezaieh 
during the winter, but his tribe is largely located in villages where 
they stay the year round. In the old days practically every Kurd in 
the Shakkak tribe had a horse. Today the need for horses has largely 
disappeared. Trucks give faster transportation; and the work of 
the farms is done by water buffalo and a few donkeys. 

Amar Khan has only eight horses left full-blooded Arabian 
horses, mostly grayish white. They are stallions and mares. I doubt 
if the Kurds ever had a gelding. Amar Khan s horse is a stallion, a 
gentle but high-spirited animal. I rode him and thought I never had 
been astride a finer animal. Then Amar Khan rode him; and I 
thought I never had seen a better rider. 

Horse races were arranged for me. Men mounted on stallions 
went a mile or more beyond Zindasht and at a signal turned and came 
back in a mad dash. They leaned forward in the saddles shouting 
at each other and at their steeds. Their white teeth, dark features, 
heavy black eyebrows, and scowling faces made them the picture 
of terror-on-horseback. Maybe, as some chronicles relate, the Kurd 
ish horsemen were never quite a match for the Cossacks. But these 

Sons Are an Ornament 79 

riders of the Shakkaks convinced me that whatever the Kurds may 
have lacked in military skill they made up in daring, gallantry, and 
grim determination. 

Amar Khan is the paramount chief of the Shakkaks. The duties 
of the office are considerable. He has the peace of the tribe to main 
tain; he is the father confessor for many of the problems of his 
people; he sits as a court of last resort in many matters. 

Among the Kurds there is a division of judicial and notarial 
duties between the mullah (the Moslem priest) and the head khan. 
The mullah supervises all arrangements pertaining to marriages and 
divorces. Wills must be made before the mullah. They may be 
oral; but if they are written the mullah is the notary. The mullah 
also handles minor cases involving civil disputes. Men may quarrel 
over the location of a boundary line. One may claim a sheep that 
another has. One or both may take the case to the mullah, who hears 
each side and renders a decision. The procedure is informal; the 
decree is binding by force of the word of the priest. 

The head khan also sits as a judge. He hears the serious criminal 
cases, such as assault, manslaughter, robbery, adultery; and he may 
also take over a civil case involving large interests and potentially 
disruptive of the peace of the tribe. 

Feuding is permissible among the Kurds; it is indeed a point of 
honor to kill in retaliation. These cases are brought to Amar Khan, 
who inquires into them to learn if the killer and the deceased were 
feuding. If he finds there was a feud, he will not entertain the com 

If two men row over a water buffalo and one is killed, that is 
manslaughter. Amar Khan hears the evidence on both sides. Once 
lie is satisfied that the- accused is the killer, he turns to the question 
3f damages. He considers not only the wealth of the killer; he in- 
juires into the needs of the family of the deceased. Then he makes 
in assessment. If the deceased was in the prime of life, $2,500 dam- 
tges are considered adequate. The defendant normally pays in sheep 
>r goats, not in money. 

But the assessment of damages is not the end of Amar Khan s 
unctions. He seeks a reconciliation between the families, for he 
vants no feuding. The reconciliation is sought in a curious way. 
le tries to persuade the killer to go to the home of the deceased and 

8o Strange Lands and Friendly People 

stay all night. If he does, the wounds are cured for all time. As I 
said earlier, Kurdish hospitality is a noble thing. A visit to the home 
of a Kurd is an honor to the householder and his family. They 
reciprocate by pledging a bond of fealty. 

Manslaughter, robbery, and assault are not punished by imprison 
ment. And no fine is imposed as we understand the term, only 
the payment of damages. In robbery, return of the property is first 
sought. There is a place in Kurdish jurisprudence for murder, but 
it is a mighty rare occurrence. In such cases corporal punishment 
by hanging is provided. But there can be no hanging without the 
mullah s consent. Amar Khan could remember no case of murder. 
What we would call murders were killings in the course of feuding. 
Manslaughters were deaths resulting from sudden quarrels. 

Adultery is not noticed unless the woman is married, when the 
offense is most serious. She is at once divorced after a trial before 
the mullah. The man is tried before Amar Khan. If he is found guilty, 
he is taken to the village center and stripped. Four men hold him 
by legs and arms. He then is publicly whipped one hundred sting 
ing lashes across the back. "Flog each of them with a hundred stripes" 
is the command of the Koran. Amar Khan says that that is the worst 
punishment he ever decreed. Adultery is a grave offense among 
every Persian tribe. I was to learn that it was even more serious 
among the Lurs. The Lurs from time immemorial stoned the man 
to death if the woman was married. 

Amar Khan s court has no clerk or marshal. It has no records. 
There are no briefs; and no opinions are written. Amar Khan 
looked surprised when I inquired if the parties were represented by 
lawyers. "Of course not," he answered. Each litigant acts as his own 
lawyer. Each swears on the Koran to tell the truth. Amar Khan 
stated that after the oath was administered, the question of dis 
covering the right or wrong of the case was easy. <c No one can lie 
after he swears on the Koran," he said. 

I suggested that people under oath sometimes commit perjury. 
Amar Khan was astonished. It was impossible for him to compre 
hend that a man under oath would lie. I put the case of a major 
dispute over property a case brought before him rather than the 
mullah. The complaining party produces a witness who takes the 
oath and swears the plaintiff s way. The defense produces a witness 
who takes the oath and swears the other way. Amar Khan stopped 

Sons Are an Ornament 81 

me by raising his hand and shaking his head. Then he spoke with 
great emphasis: "That is impossible. The truth can be only one way 
when there is an oath taken." 

The more I saw of Amar Khan the more convinced I was that 
his wrath would bring greater punishment than any of the penalties 
for perjury given in the Koran. He is the police court and the Su 
preme Court of the Shakkak tribe. He holds his people with a tight 
rein. There is no doubt in my mind that if anyone lied in Amar 
Khan s court and was discovered, he would be publicly whipped. 

And so when Amar Khan sits cross-legged on a rug, motions the 
litigants to sit before him, and administers the oath, I think justice 
will be done. Yet Amar Khan Sharifi cannot read; and when I asked 
him for a note with his autograph he said with some embarrassment 
that all he could write was Amar Khan. 

There are apple trees and a rather extensive apricot orchard be 
hind Amar Khan s house. He has also made extensive plantings of 
poplars similar to the Lombardy. Thus Amar Khan s home sits in 
shade. But Zindasht, which lies across a narrow valley from Amar 
Khan, has no touch of greenness. Its houses have mud walls and 
flat roofs. There is no grass; no vines trail over the houses; not a 
tree is in sight. Like all other villages and towns in Persia (except 
Shiraz) the houses have no piped water or plumbing. Zindasht, like 
the great majority of villages in the Middle East, has the stamp 
of squalor, as well as poverty, on it. 

Most of the people of Zindasht are tenants. Amar Khan or some 
lesser khan owns the land. Dry farming land is rented to them for 
one-fifth of the crop; irrigated land for one-third. They grow some 
melons, corn, and tobacco, but wheat and barley are the largest 

The villagers are the poorest of the poor by our standards. They 
live largely at the subsistence leveL Amar Khan loves his people too 
dearly and has too great a pride in them to let any suffer from star 
vation; it is indeed part of his responsibility as head of the tribe 
to see that they do not starve. Nonetheless the villagers of Zindasht 
have a tenancy that keeps them forever poor. Amar Khan recog 
nized it in one of our conversations. A group of bright-eyed chil 
dren dressed in rags were playing below the terrace where we sat. 
[ commented that they seemed not only happy but healthy as well. 

82 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

His reply was slow in coming. At last he said, "Your sympathetic 
heart makes your mind generous." 

Zindasht has no school There is one in a neighboring village about 
ten miles distant where instruction for boys is given through the 
fourth grade. 

In earlier years perhaps as little as a century ago the rolling 
hills around this village were covered with oaks. But I scouted great 
areas of it and found no single shoot. The trees had been cut and 
consumed by man; the new forests had been eaten by goats before 
they could get beyond the seedling stage. So today the villagers have 
no fuel except the dung of their water buffalo, which they make 
into thick wafflelike disks for use in cooking and heating. This dung 
makes a hot fire, excellent for cooking. But it should be returned to 
the earth as a fertilizer. The lands of the Kurds are already greatly 
depleted. Their depletion increases at a mounting rate. 

The salvation of Zindasht is the water that pours from a few 
springs. It is enough for modest irrigation and for household pur 
poses. One stream also furnishes power for a series of primitive 
grist mills which are owned by khans. The fee for grinding is one- 
twentieth of the grain. 

The overwhelming economic problems of Zindasht were in my 
mind the morning I said farewell to Amar Khan. He assembled his 
sons outside his home and we spent an hour or so taking pictures. 
He was proud of them and they seemed to adore the old man. He 
earlier had quoted to me from the Koran, "Wealth and sons are 
the ornaments of this present life." Now he spoke feelingly of his 
sons. They would carry on after he had gone; he wanted them al 
ways to be my friends; he asked me to bring my son Bill out to his 
tribe for a whole summer or a year or as long as he could stay. 

I extended to him an invitation to visit my home in the States. 
"Inshallah [if God is willing]," he replied. 

I asked him what education his boys had received. He told me 
that he had sent only one of them to school. That son had finished 
the sixth grade and gone no further. One boy in the family to read 
and write and keep account books was enough! 

That was for me a sad note on which to leave Amar Khan. Known 
throughout Persia as "the grand old man" of ancient Kurdistan, he 
is the embodiment of tribal gallantry and glory. He has character 
and is the kind of person men will follow to victory or death. Yet 

Sons Are an Ornament 83 

those qualities are not enough of an inheritance these days. The 
overwhelming problems of most of the Kurds are economic, agri 
cultural, and political. Every generation has difficulty enough in 
working out its salvation through the knotty complex of modern 
civilization. The chances of finding it under leadership which, 
though intelligent, is illiterate are practically nil. 

8. A New Deal for the Kurds 

ABDOLLAH ILKHANIZADEH is the head khan of the Debukri tribe of 
Kurds. He is a slight man, of middle age and medium height, with a 
long, narrow face, dark eyes, black hair, and a receding hairline. 
I met him at Bukan, a town of perhaps eight thousand people, south 
of Mahabad and Lake Urmia. 

He is soft-spoken and quiet. His fingers are long, his hands nar 
row, his handshake warm. If I had to guess at his occupation, I 
would say he was a Wall Street broker or banker. The day I met 
him he was dressed the part. His suit was tailor-made and a con 
servative gray. His shoes were English; and any American haber 
dashery might have sold him the shirt and tie. 

He and his brother Ghassem together with a group of villagers 
met me on the edge of Bukan and escorted me to his villa, a ten or 
twelve room stucco house. An open porch with a roof of peeled, 
poplar poles runs the length of the house, facing a walled-in garden. 
At one side is a shallow pool filled with water lilies. Petunias were 
in bloom; and sunflowers were so high their bobbing heads showed 
beyond the garden wall. 

The house faces west onto a broad wide valley that is rich in soil 
and produce. Bukan sits at the head of this valley. On the flanks and 
far in the distance are rolling hills. Bukan is spring-fed. Apricots, 
grapes, melons, and a wide variety of vegetables are grown there 
under irrigation. Much grain is grown by dry-farming. There are 
also many cattle and sheep. But the livestock is coming to be of 
secondary importance. And Bukan, 100 per cent Kurdish, is fast 
becoming settled in its ways and a conservative farming community. 

Abdollah Ilkhanizadeh has political wisdom as well as business 
acumen. Most of his people own five to ten acres of land; and those 


A New Deal for the Kurds 8$ 

who do not farm have stalls in the bazaar at Bukan and make or sell 

I sat on the porch of Abdollah s house talking of these things until 
late at night. He was convinced that ownership of property land, 
business, sheep has a magic curative effect on social disorders. One 
of the chief troubles in the world is that people do not, have a stake, 
an interest in making their society wholesome and healthy. Owner 
ship individual ownership gives that incentive. Bukan, he con 
cluded, shows the stabilizing effect of that program. 

Up north the Kurds around Maku and Zindasht are mostly 
poverty-stricken, as I have said. South of Bukan are the Javanrudis, 
another Kurdish tribe of very poor people. Their land is owned by 
a few khans. They herd sheep and goats in snake-infested canyons 
and eke out a meager existence. I did not visit them. Their rocky 
canyons, studded with dwarf oak, were closed to visitors when I 
was in Persia, for they were having trouble with the Persian Army, 
which wanted to disarm them. They stood on their record of loyalty 
to Persia and refused. In. August, 1950 the Persian Army moved in 
behind American tanks and artillery. Fierce battles were raging. 
The Javanrudis were distrustful of the Army, for reasons I will 
state, Their battles of 1950 were perhaps their last show of inde 
pendence. The Army was bent on their subjugation, on breaking 
their tribal authority, a process which the Kajars started and Reza 
Shah renewed. 

The Debukri Kurds at Bukan illustrate how slow that process is, 
how resistant people are to breaking with their traditions. 

As we walked the streets of Bukan in the morning and visited the 
bazaar every man we met bowed stiffly and formally to Abdollah. 
I watched their faces, and it was plain that they bowed out of 
respect and affection, not from protocol or duty. 

I spoke of this to Abdollah and he replied with warmth. His tribe 
is now mostly sedentary, living in Bukan the year round. Many of 
the old tribal customs have disappeared. Loyalty to the chief re 
mains. Law is administered by Abdollah and by a rnullah. Abdollah, 
like Amar Khan, holds court and applies the ancient law of the 
Kurds to the disputes arising within the tribe. But as the years go 
by, more and more of the cases are taken by the civil courts. When 
ever possible, however, the tribal court takes hold of a dispute. The 
Kurds like their own ancient law better than the law of the Gover- 

86 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

nor. They trust their own khans to do justice without discrimina 
tion; they are not so sure of the government courts where, the; 
hear, justice is sometimes bought and sold. They also are not quit 
sure how fair and impartial the judge may be when a Kurd, note< 
for a troublesome spirit of independence, stands before him. 

Abdollah s great pride on this tour of Bukan was first, th< 
infirmary and first-aid station, and second, the schools. The infirmar} 
had been obtained through the good offices of the Royal Society 
sponsored by the Shah and his family. The Society establishes hos 
pitals and medical centers. The need in Persia is great, for there are 
not over seventeen hundred doctors for a nation of sixteen million 
people; and hospital beds, including those of the Army, are only 
five thousand. Bukan with its infirmary and first-aid center is unique; 
few towns of that size have any medical facilities. Bukan has a 
doctor as well a German brought in by the Royal Society. Abdol- 
lah has made public health next in importance to land reform. 

Then come the schools. Bukan had a public school system through 
the eighth grade, and a high school was soon to be established 
one of the few in all rural Persia. 

Another night I was at Sanandaj south of Bukan, on the southern 
edge of ancient Kurdistan. This is the home of the famous Ardalan 
tribe of Kurds, a tribe that has long been sedentary, a tribe that has 
given Persia many loyal and capable public servants. We sat in the 
open at the Officers Club, munching roasted pumpkin seeds and 
pistachio nuts, drinking cool drinks, and talking of the rumblings 
of tribal discontent that spread all the way down from the Russian 
border. I turned to an officer and said, "What do you really think 
of these Kurds?" 

His answer came in a flash, "A Kurd will cut a man s throat as 
easily as he will drink a glass of water." And he went on to add, 
"Give a Kurd a horse, a gun, a mountain and about seven women 
and he ll be perfectly happy." 

I had to smile. I thought of Amar Khan Sharifi and the other 
gracious Kurds I had met. I thought of Bukan and its feudal lord 
who was revolutionizing his tribal society with a series of basic re 
forms. That night at Sanandaj as the wind whipped the willows at 
the Officers Club, it seemed to me that in Persia, as in our own 
country, the military mind did not have any real understanding of 
the ingredients of peace. 

9. Independence Is Preferred 

THE ELBURZ MOUNTAINS run east and west across the northern part 
of Persia. They were formed by a mighty upthrust of limestone that 
pushed Demavend the highest peak 18,600 feet into the sky. 
Demavend, flecked with snow, can be seen from Tehran through 
the heat haze of summer. Lesser peaks of the Elburz 10,000 and 
12,000 feet high are in Tehran s back yard and tower over the 

The Elburz on the southern slopes are as dry and barren to the 
eye as any mountains that Arizona and California can show. On 
their heights one finds numerous springs tucked away in remote 
recesses of high basins, and an occasional river roaring to the plains. 
There are at these points touches of green, but they are merely 
specks on a vast terrain. The total impression is one of immense 
solitude, desolate cliffs thousands of feet high, lonely parched ridges. 

The north side of the Elburz is green and verdant, sprayed by the 
moisture rising from the Caspian. These slopes produce a wide 
variety of deciduous trees oak, plane, elm, ash, beech, alder, cherry, 
walnut. The lower reaches are jungles, thick with swamps, malaria, 
tigers, and tropical snakes. The coastal plain, from a mile to forty 
miles wide and washed by the Caspian Sea, is part of Persia s pride. 
Lovely rice (the peasant s bread) is grown there; so are tea, citrus 
fruit, tobacco, hemp. This end of the Caspian produces sturgeon 
from which premium caviar is obtained. 

Here there exists a system of land tenancy which is as oppres 
sive as one will find anywhere in the world. Great acreages are held 
by absentee landlords who have no sense of responsibility either for 
their tenants or for the soil. Batman Gelich boasts that his agri 
cultural lands in the Caspian region comprise an area bigger 
than all of Switzerland. Tenants pay 80 per cent or more of 

88 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

the crop as rent; they are eternally in debt to the landlord; they 
live in miserable huts with peaked, thatched roofs. They know the 
pestilence of swamps, as severe as any in southeast Asia. 

High above them, along the top of the Elburz and down the 
parched, barren slopes on the south side, are other people who are 
just as poor. They comb the dry and rocky canyons in search of 
grass for their sheep and goats, watching their flocks at night under 
cold stars and hugging the ground for warmth as a sharp wind 
comes out of the west and w r histles along the ridges. They are 
dressed in rags; they have precious little to eat; they have no hos 
pitals, no doctors, no schools. Their women lie out in rock cairns 
overnight, give birth to children, and move on with the tribe the 
next day. But these tribesmen, unlike the tenants of the coastal plain, 
have the attitude of free men. 

I went into the Elburz to see them. 

We entered the Elburz through the villages of Naroon and Afcheh 
and went out through Plour. General A. M. Djehanbani, a lively, 
energetic man who speaks Persian, Russian, French, and English, 
was in charge of our party. We rode Persian Army horses. My son s 
was named Peacock; mine, Devil. They were almost pure-blooded 
Arabian horses, fourteen hands high, bay-colored, with small feet 
and thick shoulders. They were spirited but gentle; and they could 
run like no horse I had been on. 

Afcheh, perched on a high shoulder of the range, is fresh and 
green. A stream of white water, reminiscent of our Pacific North 
west, fills the place with a roar. There are poplar, plum, and apple 
trees and ancient walnuts that spread seventy-five feet or more. 
We stopped at a house with rock walls and a flat roof made of mud 
laid on top of several feet of thistles, and asked a pleasant-faced 
peasant for a drink of water. He showed us with much eagerness 
and gesticulation an ice-cold spring on the edge of a poplar grove. 
Then he ran to the hut and returned with a Persian rug. Putting 
it tinder a tree, he bowed graciously until we sat down. Then he 
ran ooce more to the house and returned with a saucer of huge 
pistachio nuts. He disappeared again and this time brought us 
grapes ruby grapes that are very small and sweet and in as tight 
a cluster as caviar. 

We got mules at Afcheh and loaded our pack train. Two brothers 

Independence Is Preferred 8y 

came with one mule. The smaller one age five had lost his left 
leg and was on crutches. The older one age seven led the mule. 
He sat by me on a rock wall and started to cry. He cried as if his 
heart would break. It took time to discover the cause. His father 
was sick. We would not return through Afcheh. The boy would 
have to return with the mule all alone. He was scared, for there 
are wolves in the Elburz. 

We released his mule. 

Our pack train was an odd assortment. General Djehanbani rode 
up front; six armed cavalrymen of the Persian Army followed; in 
the rear were the heavily packed mules each with a muleteer, shout 
ing, laughing, calling. Bill observed that we were not the only ones 
well protected; the mules were well guarded also. They had crude 
charms whittled from wood hanging on their foreheads, to keep 
away evil spirits and bring good luck. 

We were headed for the Lar Valley. The pass we had to cross 
was between two and three thousand feet above Afcheh. The trail 
reached there through a precipitous canyon. It was a cruel path, as 
dangerous as any I wish to travel horseback. It was laid across large 
smooth rocks which not only were difficult to climb, but often ran 
in a steep pitch to the side of an abyss* There were cliffs up to 
one thousand feet high which had to be skirted. 

There was no tree or shrub in sight during the three hours of 
travel. The hillsides had been scoured by goats and sheep, and 
scrubbed and washed by wind and rain. No grass was left; only 
thistles and coarse weeds were showing. 

The pass is over ten thousand feet high. Below us was a vast tree 
less valley the valley of the lower Lar. Across the valley to the 
north were broken walls of limestone, rising into formidable peaks. 
To the northeast was Demavend streaked with snow, free of clouds, 
and forming a perfect inverted cone. On our left in the distance 
was the great dome of the Throne of Solomon, the third highest 
mountain of Persia (15,912 feet). Legend has it that Solomon mar 
ried the Queen of Sheba but could not make her love him. He sent 
a flock of birds out to find the coldest place on earth. All the birds 
but one returned the next morning. The last did not come back 
until dusk of the second day. He apologized to Solomon for his 
delay and offered the following excuse: he found a summit so cold 
that, when he alighted, his wings froze to the ground; and he could 

$0 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

not free them until the sun was high the next day. Solomon at once 
moved his camp there. The first night the Queen of Sheba got so 
cold that she surrendered and moved into Solomon s tent. The next 
morning Solomon touched the ridge and caused a warm spring to 
gush forth for the Queen s bath. Natives swear the spring is still 

We dropped two thousand feet or more over smooth treacherous 
rock, reaching the Lar at dusk. A huge black oblong tent of a goat 
herd (typical Bedouin style) lay not far from the trail against the 
base of the mountain. The sun disappeared, leaving a momentary 
red glow. Venus appeared. A slice of moon rode above the ridge. 
Jackals began yapping on the heights above us. A chill wind moved 
down the Lar. We camped not far from the goatherd and with 
much flapping of nylon and canvas put up our tents. 

For several days we explored numerous valleys of the Elburz 
the lower Lar, the upper Lar, and the White Valley. 

We caught medium-sized speckled trout on small black gnat 
and brown hackle wet flies. 

We went quail shooting. 

One day we kicked out three huge, grayish-white wolves and 
chased them on our fleet-footed Arabian horses. But wolves are fast 
and foxy and we never got in range. 

We found huge green and brown snakes (strange species to 
me) in marshland near the river. 

We looked for scorpions in our boots at dawn but found them 
only under rocks. 

We caught fast-moving tarantulas in brush. 

We ate delicious Persian food: dolmeh kedoo, which is sum 
mer squash hollowed out, stuffed with celery, and cooked in a 
sweet yellow sauce; boned lamb cooked on skewers over charcoal 
and served with small, grilled tomatoes; pilau (pronounced pillow), 
which is rice covered with a juicy stewlike dish of chicken, egg 
plant, and tomatoes. 

One night at the end of a sumptuous meal when the traditional 
Turkish coffee was passed, an incident happened which illustrates 
not only Persian humor but the essentially democratic quality of 
Persian society. General Djehanbani sipped his coffee and then 

Independence Is Preferred $i 

called for the cook. The cook came in and stood awkwardly before 
the General. The General said, "This coffee is too strong." 

The cook s reply was instantaneous, "I know, but it is very good." 
Everyone including the General and the cook roared with laughter. 

It was along the Lar that I first heard of Mullah Nasr-ed-Din, the 
twelfth-century Persian humorist. Mullah was a practical joker. 
One day he started a rumor in his village that bread would be dis 
tributed free to all villagers at five o clock the following morning. 
The village fairly buzzed with the excitement of the news, and 
people rose extra early to be on hand for the distribution. Five 
o clock came and passed and no bread had arrived. One old-timer, 
wise to Mullah s ways, finally realized what had happened and 
started up the hill to his hut. He met Mullah hurrying down. 

"Where are you going, Mullah? * 

"To the village to see if there is any bread." 

"But it s all a joke that you yourself started." 

"I know," said Mullah, "but I got to thinking about it and de 
cided there might be something in it after all." 

The Hedavands are a small tribe of about seventy-five families. 
They winter on the Varamin Plain, southeast of Tehran, and sum 
mer in the high Elburz. When I saw them, they were scattered in 
various encampments. Each settlement had a few white tents that 
marked the home of a khan or chief; the rest of the tents (about 
twenty feet long and eight wide) were made of coarse black wool 
cloth, and open on one side. 

My arrival was unexpected and unannounced. Yet by the time 
my party had come out of the gorge in the White Valley and rid 
den the half mile across the high basin where the Hedavands were 
camped, an interesting ritual had been prepared. A man stood in the 
trail with a copper tray filled with hot coals. He held rhe tray high, 
extending it to me. This was a bit of custom coming down from 
Zoroaster. Fire on a tray is the warmest welcome the Hedavands 
know how to give. 

We stopped at the home of a minor chief and ate mast (a type of 
curds) and sipped tea. I went among the Hedavands, talking with 
them and taking pictures. I even talked with the women, who were 
unveiled and, though shy and retiring, friendly. 

The economy of these people is built around the goat and the 

92 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

sheep. One afternoon I was with a shepherd boy who had a herd 
of a hundred goats or more on the steep slope above White Valley. 
I learned that day that the bite of the goat is poisonous. On this 
hillside there were only a few spears of grass, one every six or eight 
feet. The goats got each one, snipping it off at the ground. Any 
remnants of wild flowers that survived June were also taken. Noth 
ing edible above ground was left in their wake; they even ate the 
blossoms of thistles. 

The sheep the flat-tailed, Asian species were almost as dev 
astating. Their eyes never left the ground; they walked tirelessly 
with heads down taking every growing thing within reach. These 
tired, wasted lands were being prepared for even heavier erosion. 

In the afternoon the sheep and goats come off the slopes and 
head for camp, where they line up without supervision or direction 
for milking. One man and two women service a line. The man holds 
a sheep or goat under each arm, while a woman milks. When one 
animal is milked the man releases it and another steps up. And so it 
goes for a couple of hours until the whole herd is serviced. 

The women make mast for the use of the families. Mast is also 
dried into hard white balls and stored for winter use. Butter is made 
in a goatskin resting on a cradle that hangs from a tripod made of 
sticks. Women swing the cradle to and fro; and babies often ride 
the cradle during the churning to the tune of plaintive lullabies. 

Surplus milk is put into goatskins, which are loaded onto mules 
and taken over the mountain to some village where there is a mar 
ket. The Hedavands were bringing many skins of milk to Afcheh 
the day we were there. Merchants met the pack trains, pouring the 
milk into fresh goatskins. The milk-filled skins were kept in the 
river until nightfall, when they were loaded into caravans and taken 
to Tehran. The Hedavands barter most of their milk for cloth, 
sugar, tea, grain and the like; some they sell for cash. This milk, 
made from the meager growth of wasted mountain slopes, is their 

Their one real meal a day consists of tea, bread, cheese, mast, and 
perhaps a little meat. They cook over an open fire built in a three- 
wall open fireplace and bake bread on a slightly convex copper 
pkte. Their summer fuel is thistles. Yet these people, as poor as any 
in the Middle East, are among the most generous people I have met. 

One night in the Lar I was very sick. I had not eaten wisely and 

Independence Is Preferred $3 

I was spending a miserable night. Word of it somehow went through 
the darkness to the Hedavand camp. About midnight a ragged, bare 
footed man of the tribe came to my bed with a bowl of mast. Mast 
harbors no bacteria hostile to man and has some that kill many un 
friendly ones. This mast had a benign influence. After I had eaten 
most of it, I went to sleep at once; and I woke up well. 

I talked with these tribesmen about their economic condition and 
asked why they did not settle down in villages and enjoy the com 
forts of life. We ended in a long discussion, the sum of which was 

A peasant in a village is a slave. He pays four-fifths or seven- 
eighths or even more of his crop as rent to a landlord. The landlord 
owns everything the land and the mud houses where the tenant 
lives, the village bathhouse where everyone bathes, the animals that 
work the fields, even the water that is used for irrigation. The 
peasant cannot leave the village; he has no freedom, no way of es 
cape. He is a serf, bound throughout time to his landlord. His 
grandfather and father wore those chains before him; his children 
and grandchildren will wear them after him. 

A grimy old goatherd spoke up: "There is one man who owns 
fifteen hundred villages; and all the people in them. They vote as 
he tells them. They always owe him money. They are real slaves. 
When the Tudeh party (Communist party) was growing strong in 
Iran, rents of farmers were reduced. Now they are up again. A vil 
lager is lucky if he has enough after the landlord is paid to keep his 
family alive during the winter." 

"But you are lucky also if you can feed and clothe your family?" 
I replied. 

"Yes," he answered. But his eyes lighted up as he added, "We are 
free and independent." 

These tribesmen, no matter how impoverished, are gallant. They 
are aristocrats. They love the ridges where the wind blows a gale. 
The remote peaks take them far above the squalor and filth of vil 
lages. There is the thrill of the hunt. The sound of whistling wings 
of ducks coming down from Russia excites them. They like a cres 
cent moon over a rugged cliff and the roar of a river down a rocky 
canyon. They like to come and go as they please. They are law- 
abiding; but it is their own law that they respect. Hence they are 

$4 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

often difficult neighbors. They are a force that is in many respects 
antagonistic to the development of a so-called civilized and ordered 
society. But even the poorest of them have done much to keep alive 
in Persia the nation s unconquerable spirit the spirit of true in 

10. I Am a Lur 

THE CHRONICLES divide the Lurs into two main groups the Lesser 
Lurs, sometimes called the Feili (Rebel) Lurs; and the Greater Lurs, 
commonly known as the Bakhtiari. Today in Persia when one refers 
to the Lurs he means the Feili Lurs; and it is of them I write. Their 
territory extends from Azna on the south to Harsin (just south of 
Kermanshah) on the north; from Malayer on the east to the Iraqi 
frontier on the west. This is a part of ancient Luristan. The capital 
is Khorramabad, a town of perhaps twenty thousand people, that 
stands on the edge of a broad plain stretching west twenty miles or 
so to the ridges of the Zagros. 

The Lurs and the Kurds are the closest of any of the present 
population of Persia to the original Aryan stock. And of these two 
the Lurs are probably the purest. The Lurs had a place of honor 
and distinction in ancient Persia, Marco Polo speaks of them as one 
of the eight kingdoms. They customarily furnished units for the 
Shah s cavalry. But they remained a principality under independent 
management. In ancient days they formed part of the council of 
nobles that ruled with the King of Kings of Persia. With the advent 
of the Kajars in the eighteenth centAy their relations with the cen 
tral government worsened. 

Yet not even two hundred years of oppression, corrupt rule, and 
divisive politics broke the Lurs. They were not finally subdued and 
reduced until Reza Shah Pahlavi, who was crowned in 1926, threw 
the force of the Army against them. Even then their final suppres 
sion was a major undertaking. And the bitterness that it engendered 
is today a powerful political force in Persia. 

The Lurs are a tribe without much, if any, literature and without 
a recorded history. Most accounts depict diem as a thieving, mur- 


$6 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

derous lot, and there is no doubt that the Lurs stood across caravan 
routes and looted people, baggage, and freight. Their desire for in 
dependence inevitably made them a thorn in the side of every con 
quering power; plundering was a natural weapon for their defense. 

Today there are still lawless elements among the Lurs as there 
are among every people, I met a group of them near Nour-Abad. 
They looked like ruffians; their dark swarthy faces and poker ex 
pressions were enough for the part. Actually they were smugglers. 
For a fee they would smuggle anything over the mountains into 
Persia, anything from a woman to a package of opium. The great 
bulk of the Lurs, however, are kind, friendly, hospitable. They also 
have a sense of humor. 

The men love to carry arms. These days they have none, except 
what may be cached away in some secret place, for the Army has 
completely disarmed these tribes. But the urge to display firearms is 
still strong. On a visit I made to the Tulabi tribe, northwest of 
Khorramabad, a young Lur, son of a khan, asked if I would take his 
picture. I agreed. He put on two bandoleers, borrowed two re 
volvers and a rifle from our party, and thrust several knives in his 
belt. First he had me take his picture standing; then he lay flat, 
rested his gun on a rock, and peered down the barrel. "This is the 
way we fight," he said proudly. 

I stood in front of him, focusing my camera. 

"There is one request I will make," I told him. 

"What is that?" 

"Don t shoot until after I take the picture." 

He laughed so hard he dropped the gun. He laughed and laughed 
and laughed until his face was covered with tears. And all the as 
sembled Lurs roared too. 

The Lurs today number about 800,000. About half of them are 
sedentary, i.e., year-round residents of villages. The other half are 
migratory. In the summer they are in the high country, grazing 
mountain slopes and farming the high valleys. In the fall they move 
south and west to a lower and warmer country. 

Though the Lurs today are Sfaiah Moslems, they have clung fast 
to some ancient customs dating back to Zoroaster. Thus their wheat 
and their bread are sacred. A Lur, if he wants to take an oath, is apt 
to swear, "By the bread we ate together it is true." When the lamp 
is lighted at night and brought into the room, all members of the 

/ Am a Lur 97 

family rise out of respect. And their dances at night are near or 
around a bonfire. 

When their tribal system flourished, they had a self-contained 
system of law. As in the case of the Kurds which I have already 
described, the mullah handled domestic affairs and minor civil dis 
putes, while the khan handled major civil disputes and criminal 
cases. Today, however, the tribal structure is almost completely 
pulverized. The mullah handles marriages and wills, and decrees 
divorces, but most of the other cases now go to the civil courts of 
Persia. Only occasionally will a khan hear a case nowadays; when 
he does it involves a major dispute over property. 

The Lurs are as dark as the Kurds but shorter in stature. The men 
usually wear loose black trousers, an open-neck shirt, and a large 
colored sash around the waist. For dress occasions they wear a col 
ored jacket that hangs to the knees. Their hats seldom have a brim; 
these days they are usually gray or black skull caps on the roomy 
side. Very often they wear instead a dark-colored turban. In older 
days the men let their hair grow long; today shaved heads are quite 

The typical woman s costume is a long dress, usually black but 
sometimes colored, which hangs from the neck to the ankles. She 
wears a kerchief around her head. Both men and women usually 
wear cloth sandals. 

The dress of the men is sometimes colorful. That of the women 
seldom is. It may be that in ancient days there was beauty to their 
dress. Once the Lurs were rich, proud, and powerful. Today they 
are only proud. The cheapness of their women s dress is a good 
mirror of their poverty. The best way in Persia to convey the idea 
that one is poverty-stricken is to say, "I am a Lur." 

11. The Six Poorest of Us 

THE POVERTY of the Lurs is due partly to erosion. In Kurdistan to 
the north are mountain ranges practically devoid of trees; for miles 
and miles there is nothing but high, rolling grassland. From Kerman- 
shah on south into Luristan one finds willow and juniper in the 
draws and oak on the slopes. The oaks do not form thick forests, 
but scattered clumps such as one sees in southwestern New Mexico 
and southeastern Arizona. Few are full-grown. Continuous cutting 
for centuries has resulted in trees that are mere bushy shoots from 
roots of monarchs that once commanded the range. 

The grass has been so thinned by grazing that now one must take 
several steps between clumps. Only the thistles seem to have flour 
ished. They stand four and five feet high in the ravines coarse, 
spiny stems topped by round, blue blossoms almost as big as an 
orange. The scene reminded me of some overgrazed areas of our 
own in Oregon and Colorado. 

Quick runoffs of rain and of snow water leave harsh gullies. 
Floods come in the spring with a mad rush, carrying topsoil with 
them. The water necessary for irrigation is wasted. The soil in the 
bottom lands is still rich, but it lacks water. Flood control and irriga 
tion projects are needed. Protection of the ranges against overgraz 
ing, and protection of the forests against cutting are also needed. 
The latter are as effective for storage of water as man-made dams. 
But in Luristan none of these conservation measures is in force. 
The wasting of resources goes on endlessly. Each year the earth is 
further depleted; each year the pinch of poverty is greater. 

Flood control, irrigation projects, and conservation, though crit 
ical, are not the whole answer. Landownership and illiteracy are also 
at the bottom of the economic problems of the Lurs. 

The Sagavands are often described in the chronicles of Persia as 

The Six Poorest of Us $$ 

notorious highwaymen. One would not recognize them as such 
today. One Porsartib is their khan. Porsartib owns all the land. It 
lies at the head of a wide valley, fifty miles south and east of Khor- 
ramabad. There is scant water for the fields. The mountains that 
rim the valley on the east and west provide little moisture, except 
harsh runoffs in the spring. These mountains within the memory of 
residents of this valley were once green with oak and juniper. Now 
they are barren. 

The tribe is sedentary permanently settled in thirty-six villages. 
The menfolk gathered in a village by the road to greet me. They 
were in rags and tatters; their clothes more threadbare than one 
saw in our breadlines during the great depression. They stood 
huddled together, like the sheep they tend, but they held their heads 
with a pride despite generations of suffering and privation. These 
men inherited their tenancy. The entire tribe of forty-two thousand 
people works for Porsartib, paying one-third of the crop to him as 
rent. They are bound to him by debt as well. It is not extortionate 
debt; but it is eternal advances to buy grain during severe winters; 
loans to meet the recurring emergencies of impoverished people. 

Practically all the Sagavands are illiterate. Hence they have no 
method of escape from the system that holds them tight. Scientific 
agriculture, cheap means of financing, efficient methods of market 
ing are unknown to them. They plow with a stick pulled by a cow; 
they fertilize with night soil; they burn their best fertilizer cow 
manure since that is the only fuel supply they have; they reap 
grain with a hand sickle; they thrash it by having cows or donkeys 
pull a drag over it; they separate the grain from the chaff by tossing 
the straw in the air. This was their fathers* method. And it is likely 
it will be their sons . In all the thirty-six villages there "are only 
three schools; and these go only through the fourth grade. 

There is no doctor in the entire area. Midwives with primitive 
methods attend to births; the umbilical cord is cut with a knife from 
the field. There are no medicines, no first-aid facilities. I talked with 
a tall, thin man with dark, deep-set eyes about the problem of medi 
cal care. 

"Suppose you get a pain in your stomach, one that makes you 
double up. What do you do?" 

He answered in a solemn voice. "If God wills it, I live." 

/oo Strange Lands and Friendly People 

More or less the same conditions exist among the other tribes of 
Lurs in this valley the Dalvands and the Biranavands. 

One August night I sat up late talking with Rustam Bahador, the 
khan of the Tulabi tribe, located farther to the north. Rustam 
Bahador owns not only the land; he owns every mud hut, every 
outhouse, every corral and barn in the area. He talked of the great 
ness of the Lurs and of their past, of the enduring qualities of his 
people. He emphasized the richness of their land. But this khan 
rich and powerful though he is is not leading his people out of the 
wilderness of ignorance and disease. I saw the villages that he owns. 
They have the mark of squalor on them. They have the fecal odor 
of the Middle East. There is no sanitation; the wells are not pro 
tected; no one is waging a campaign against flies. 

Rustam Bahador talkative, gregarious, friendly occupies today 
a strong position of authority and leadership. But, like most leader 
ship in the Middle East, it is irresponsible. He did not seem to be 
interested in or know anything about the central problems of agri 
cultural production seed selection, crossbreeding, fertilizers, irri 
gation, methods of plowing and cultivation, crop rotation, harvesting 
and thrashing. This Tulabi khan has the virtue of being a resident 
landlord. But the land and people he commands are merely per 
quisites of a feudal position. 

There are not many landlords in all Persia who have a broad 
vision and a sense of social responsibility: Abdol Hossein Tavakoli, 
of Kermanshah, is one; Seyid Zia-Ed-Din of Tehran (former Prime 
Minister of Persia) is another. But these men are the exceptions. 

One day I visited the Direkvan, Baharvand, Mir Baharvand and 
Papi (pronounced poppy) tribes. As I approached each village 
or settlement, the tribesmen tried to make a sacrifice in my honor. 
The Lurs are mostly too poor to kill a steer, even if they owned 
one; the sacrifice they usually tendered was a sheep. One day I 
managed to forestall it at five different places. On the sixth stop, 
when I visited the Papi tribe, several men had a steer tied about the 
ankles, preparatory to the sacrifice, and were trying to throw it. We 
stopped them. Beyond them, however, was another group who had 
four sheep in the middle of the road, ready for the sacrifice. They 
cat the throat of one before we had time to object. Its bright red 
blood streaked across the path and Ahmad Khan, their warm 
hearted, friendly chief, stepped forward to greet me. And when he 

The Six Poorest of Us 101 

grasped me by the hand he put in poetic words the ultimate expres 
sion of Persian hospitality: "Ghadam rouyeh tchashm" "You may 
walk on my eyes." 

His encampment was high on slopes of the Zagros Mountains, 
west of Khorramabad, a thousand feet or so below Noozhian, an 
eight-thousand-foot pass over the range. 

We sat on exquisite Persian rugs in his oblong tent of black 
woolen cloth. An orchestra stood on the open side of the tent. 
Dances went on as we sipped tea and ate melons, apples, and grapes. 
After a while four men seated themselves before us and played soft 
music. One played a long, bowl-like violin; one a flute; two played 
drums with their hands. And as they played they sang one of the 
most haunting melodies I have heard. There were seemingly endless 
verses ending with 

My sweetheart is Kattaneh 
I love Kattaneh 
My sweetheart is Kattaneh 
I love her dearly. 

The tenderest of love songs came out of the rags and misery of 
the Papis. The words came almost in whispers; there was pathos in 
the voices; each singer poured out his heart; one middle-aged drum 
mer had tears in his eyes. There was more than sadness in their 
voices; there was supplication too. It was the cry of desperately 
lonely people for love and affection. 

Kattaneh was more than a woman; she was a symbol of justice 
and mercy. All in this Papi environment that met the eye spelled 
poverty and suffering. The music rose above the surroundings; it 
was an avenue of escape from the misery of this life. 

The melody has haunted me through all my travels. Goatherds 
in the high Himalayas of India, the miserable laborers in the date 
orchards of Iraq, workers in the factories of Isfahan all these con 
veyed the same message through their eyes. It was a plea for love 
for charity and kindness; a plea which, long neglected, turns into an 
orgasm of hate and revenge, producing revolution and terror. 

After the singing, Ahmad Khan served lunch. There were skewers 
of liver, kidney, chicken, and lamb done over tharcoal. They were 
perfectly turned by a genial male chef and removed from the fire 
at the peak of their flavor. We stripped the meat off wkh our 

102 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

fingers; and as we ate, the crowd of ragged human beings standing 
before the tent moved closer. They were so marked with poverty 
their faces as well as their wretched clothes that I felt a sharj 
twinge of conscience. 

These morsels of rich food were drawn from the larders of th( 

This feast was tendered by the poorest of the poor & meal 
the like of which they themselves had never eaten. 

And as I ate, I thought of the Lurs who had died of starvation the 
previous winter. 

And these were the people who were giving me the feast! 

Not far from where I sat nine hundred Lurs out of a village 
of five thousand had starved to death only eight months before. The 
central government at last had distributed wheat; but in one village 
fifteen Lurs were so emaciated they died of starvation after the 
wheat arrived. And in the spring of this present year the Lurs in 
some of the villages I had visited had been so weak they could not 
stand for more than five minutes at a time* 

I could eat no more. I motioned to two youngsters who stood in 
front of me to come near. They had sunken eyes and hollow cheeks. 
I handed first one, then the other a skewer of meat. They stripped 
off the delicate morsels and bolted them down. And the whole 
circle of hungry people moved politely nearer. 

I asked my interpreter, Shahbaz, to call up at random six men 
among these peasants. They stood in front of me, their hands nerv 
ously twisting their gray felt skull caps. Turning to the first one I 
asked, "What is your name?" 


"What land do you own?" 


"What land do you work?" 


< What property do you own?" 

"Four calves, ten sheep." (Skinny animals, grazed on barren 
tribal land.) 

"How large a family do you support?" 

"Five people." 

I asked the other five similar questions. 

The Six Poorest of Us 

Abdul. Owned no land, worked no land, owned six cows and 
15 sheep, supported a family of 10. 

EmanL Owned no land; worked no land; owned four calves and 
twenty sheep; supported a family of two. 

Hossein. Owned no land; rented wheat land from a merchant in 
Khorramabad and got as his share 20 per cent of the crop which 
last year was three hundred pounds; owned four cows and thirty 
sheep; supported a family of five. 

AIL Owned no land; rented wheat land from a merchant in Khor 
ramabad and got as his share 20 per cent of the crop which last year 
was two hundred pounds of wheat; owned six cows and forty sheep; 
supported a family of two. 

Taghi. Owned no land; worked no land; owned two cows and 
twenty sheep; supported a family of four. 

I will never forget their faces. They were simple men, anxious 
to speak the truth, caught in a mire of poverty and squalor from 
which they knew not how to escape. They were eager to pour out 
their hearts. Their eyes searched mine, as if to obtain a promise of 
a new future. When I ended the conversation and turned away, 
the expectation and hope that had filled their faces vanished. They 
stood before me, ragged victims of despair. 

While my questioning was going on, the elders of the tribe seated 
themselves on the far side of the tent. When I finished, one of them 
arose and came over to me. What he said was perhaps intended to 
save face, perhaps designed to relieve my embarrassment. He bowed 
graciously and then stated, "It was God s will that you should Have 
picked the six poorest of us." 

12. Butcher of Luristan 

THE GREAT impoverishment of the Lurs is due in part to the pillag 
ing of the tribes by the Persian Army. The tragedy traces back to 
the policy of Reza Shah, who set about to subjugate them. 

Reza Shah was an Army officer who reached the Persian throne 
as a result of a coup (fetat in 1925. He did some great and good 
things for Persia. The famous resort at Ramsar on the Caspian is one. 
In a few areas he built clean, attractive houses for peasants. The 
tearing of veils from the faces of Moslem women stands to his 
credit. Roads, schools, reservoirs, parks these and other projects 
have left his stamp on the nation. But his program against the tribes 
ended in murder and pillage. His plan was to break their feudal 
ties, rid them of their migratory habits, and settle them permanently 
in villages and he used all means to accomplish this end. To what 
extent Reza Shah was personally responsible for the tragedy that 
befell the Lurs is a matter of debate. Perhaps he did not know what 
his army did; perhaps he closed his eyes. But one of the most shame 
ful chapters was written by one of his colonels known throughout 
all Persia as the Butcher of Luristan. 

In 1936 the government decided to put a paved highway through 
Luristan. The Lurs opposed the scheme. There were skirmishes be 
tween the army and the tribe. Troubles erupted throughout Luristan. 
An outstanding general of the Persian Army was ambushed and 
killed by some Lurs at a spot where a short concrete bridge now 
crosses a ravine a few miles south of Khorramabad. The Lurs at 
once moved on the city and took it, and occupied the Fort, a huge 
pillar of fortified rock several blocks square that rises two hundred 
feet or more from the middle of the town. They were exultant and 
defiant. They now controlled the heart of Luristan. The plans of 


Butcher of Luristan 105 

Reza Shah to break up the tribe, destroy its leadership, and resettle 
the tribesmen on land had received a serious setback. 

A young colonel was ordered out of Tehran to Khorramabad. 
He laid siege to the Fort. Day after day troops poured in and tight 
ened fast their grip on the surrounding countryside. Supplies and 
reinforcements to the Fort were cut off. The process of strangula 
tion set in. In about a month the Fort capitulated. The leaders of 
the Lurs eighty in number were hanged. 

"We kept them on the gallows for three days," an officer told 
me. "We wanted to make sure that their example was impressed 
on the Lurs." 

The rest of what happened can best be related by an old man 
perhaps eighty years of age. I met him on a wind-blown plain of 
Luristan, in a hut that was open on one side, its \valls and roof 
thatched with boughs of oak. I had come to the hut to inquire if I 
could take a picture of its interior. On my appearance a woman, 
who had been sitting weaving, quickly vanished through a rear 
exit. The man, also seated, looked up with a troubled face and 
asked, "Is it necessary to take a picture of us in our misery?" 

His tired, anxious face had a patrician look. There was dignity 
in his features, pride in his voice. I was embarrassed and ashamed 
at my intrusion. I closed my camera and asked if I might come in. 
He rose, bowed, and with a gracious sweep of his arm invited me 
to join him on his rug. 

We talked of the mountains that lay against the skyline on the 
west. Wolves, leopards, goats, and ibexes live there. In the lower 
reaches one finds many partridges and wild pigeons. The old man 
spoke of his early hunts; he mentioned American Army officers 
who came up here to hunt during the days of the Persian Gulf 
Command and told how he helped them plan their trips. He liked 
the Americans. He spoke of huge fish perhaps sturgeon in the 
Kashgan River which rises in the northwest and flows by Khor- 
ramabad to the Gulf. 

He rambled on and on. Finally there came a moment of silence 
when I broke in to ask him about his misery which he had mentioned 
earlier. He spoke then of the poverty and hunger of the Lnrs, of 
the lade of schools and of doctors, and of those who died of starva 
tion last winter. He himself had barely kept body and soul together. 
The bkfcer acorns of the oaks had saved his life. 

io6 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

"And what about Amir Ahmadi?" I asked. 

He looked at me quizzically and then shook his head. The story 
was slow in coming; it took much persuasion and a promise that I 
would never disclose his identity. Finally it poured from his lips 
in whispered tones: 

"We were camped not far from here. There were twenty huts in 
all over one hundred people. We had several thousand sheep and 
goats, a few hundred cattle, and many dozens of horses. Some of 
our young men had been with our khans at the Fort. They were all 
killed. Our khans were hanged. The Army had won. The battle of 
resistance was over. The road which Reza Shah wanted to build 
would now be built. 

**A few days later I saw a cloud of dust across the plain. Horsemen 
were coming on a gallop. As they came closer, I saw that they were 
an Army troop. A colonel was in command. They came right at us, 
the colonel shouting orders. The men dismounted and started shoot 
ing. There were babies in baskets in some of our tents; the soldiers 
put revolvers to the heads of the little ones and blew their brains 
out. Women were screaming from all the huts. My wife was cower 
ing in a corner. I stood before her. Two soldiers rushed toward us. 
I seized a knife. Then there were shots. I was knocked to the earth 
and lost consciousness. 

"When I awoke my wife was lying across me. Her warm blood 
ran down my chest. She died from bullet wounds in her breast. I 
had been shot through the neck, and left for dead. 

"I did not move, because the colonel and his troops were still 
there. I could see them through my half -closed eyes. You may not 
believe me when I tell you what I saw. But by the bread of my 
house I swear it is true." 

There was a long silence before the old man continued. The wind 
whisked a whirlwind of dust into the hut, stinging our eyes. For 
several minutes a lizard had been exploring the prospects of join 
ing us. Suddenly he was startled and turned and ran. He ran so 
fast that his front legs left the ground and it looked as if he might 
take flight like a miniature jet plane. The old man and I watched 
the lizard as he disappeared into a patch of licorice root Then he 
turned to me and told me the story that still lives in his head like a 

The Asian ways and means of arranging death and torture are 

Butcher of Luristan 

ancient and numerous. Finely ground whiskers of the leopard mixed 
with food is said to be good. It causes ulceration of the intestines; 
and death is a lingering affair. 

A good poison is extracted from a beetle. When served in coffee, 
it causes sure death. 

The Mongols had a victim stick his head through a knothole and 
then twisted it off. Or they pulled the man through an opening 
only half large enough for him. 

Pouring hot lead on top of a shaved head is said to make the eyes 
pop out. 

Starving a victim to death by chaining him in a dungeon half 
filled with water was painfully revengeful. 

One Persian Shah, Agha Mohammed, who had been castrated 
when a boy, took horrible revenge on society. Once he ordered 
thirty thousand pairs of human eyes brought to him; and he counted 
them himself to make certain his order had been obeyed. 

The Lurs themselves developed sadistic means of punishment. 
History records that they sometimes boiled their victims alive. 

But the deeds of the colonel, as related to me by the old man, 
had a unique and hideous twist. 

"The colonel had ordered some of our young men to be held as 
captives. Meanwhile he built a fire of charcoal. I soon discovered 
what he was doing. He had an iron plate so big [indicating a plate 
about eight inches long, six inches wide, and a quarter of an inch 
thick]. He heated this until it was red hot. He had his men bring up 
one of the Lurs. Two soldiers held the prisoner, one on each side. A 
third soldier stood with a sword behind the prisoner. The colonel 
gave the signal. The man with the sword swung. As the sword hit 
the prisoner s neck, the colonel shouted, Run. The head dropped 
to the ground. The colonel pressed the red hot plate on the stub of 
the man s neck. The headless man took a step and fell. 

" Give me the tall one, the colonel shouted. He can run better 
than that. 

"The same process was repeated. The tall man, when beheaded, 
ran a few paces. Lur after Lur was beheaded. Again and again the 
plate was heated red hot and slapped on the stub of a neck. Once 
the colonel was slow with the plate; and the blood shot five feet in 
the air." 

The old man stopped to wet his lips. 

Strange Lmds and Friendly People 

*The colonel started betting on how far these headless men could 
ran. He and the soldiers would shout and yell, encouraging each 
victim to do his best/ 

The old man paused, his anger swelling up as he relived this ex 

"Who won the betting contest?" I asked. He waited several min 
utes before he would speak. 

"The colonel won most of the bets. He w r on a thousand rials, I 
think, on the headless Lur who ran fifteen paces after he was be 

The old man seemed exhausted from the telling of the story. He 
poured tea from an ancient samovar. We sipped it in silence. After 
we had finished, I asked, "What did the colonel do next?" 

u He ran off all our stock sheep, goats, cattle, and horses. The 
next day a dozen lorries came. All our rugs, samovars, dishes, jewelry, 
clothes every possession was loaded in these wagons and taken 
away by the Army." 

"And what of yourself?" 

"I dragged myself to a spring in a ravine and washed my wound. 
I was too weak to move for two nights. Then I went back to bury 
the dead. Every man, woman, and child had been killed. Not a 
living soul was left. The vultures had got there before me." 

4 What happened to the colonel?" I inquired. 

u The colonel? Oh, he became a general and later Minister of 

"Is he still alive?" 

"Very much so. He lives in Tehran. The loot he got from our 
villages filled dozens of lorries. Tens of thousands of sheep and goats 
were stolen. How the colonel divided it up among his soldiers I do 
not know. \\Tiat higher-ups shared in the plunder I do not know. 
But the colonel is today a very rich man. He bought several 
hundred houses in Tehran with the plunder." 
There was scorn in his voice, as he spit out the words: 
u The Butcher, AMIR AHMADI." 

The sun was setting as I rose to go. The old man took me warmly 
by the hand and held it as he looked deeply into my eyes and asked 
for reassurance that I would not reveal his identity. After a minute 
he said, "I am a Persian. I love my country. I would gladly give my 
life for it. But I hate the Army. God in his time will wreak a venge- 

Butcher of Luristan 

ance." He dropped his eyes; and when, after a moment he looked 
up, there was fire in them. 

"We fear Russia. We know that the Soviets are an enemy of our 
people. But we also have one right in our midst." 

I met Amir Ahmadi at a garden party in Tehran. He is stocky 
and erect, and shows the age of a man in his early sixties. He has a 
fierce black mustache, piercing eyes, and prominent gold teeth. He 
speaks Persian, Russian, and Turkish. Trained in the Cossack Army 
m Russia, he still bears some of the marks of its arrogance and daring. 
It was reflected in a lucid moment of idle conversation. 

"What is your relationship to the people of Luristan today?" a 
lady asked. 

"Oh, they think highly of me," he replied. "I am a household 

"In what way?" 

He laughed as he replied, showing his gold teeth, "Why in Luri 
stan if a child cries the mother says, Hush or Amir Ahmadi will 
get you. " 

13. Gun Play at Kuhdasht 

THE DAY after I interviewed the six Lurs of the Papi tribe I visited 
Kuhdasht. Lurs of the Tarhan tribe live there. This day they were 
in a sullen mood; and a half hour after I left, a pitched battle took 
place in the village street. The row can be understood only against 
the background of the Army s relations with the tribes and the 
manner of conducting elections in Persia. 

Kuhdasht lies northwest of Khorramabad about eighty miles. A 
dirt road follows the long winding valley where the milky Kashgan 
flows, a river as white as many of our glacial streams. Great lime 
stone escarpments are on the right sheer cliffs a thousand feet or 
more high, bizarre-shaped peaks, tall, fluted columns. The road 
climbs all the way to Kuhdasht; after it leaves the valley it takes a 
tortuous path, skirting rock debris, and winding cautiously along 
the edge of dizzy cliffs, coming out at last on a wide plain rimmed 
by low ridges and eight thousand feet high. Few trees are on the 
ridges; no peaks are in view. The place looks like a high pocket in 
the Rocky Mountains of Colorado or Wyoming. Many cattle were 
in the basin. Wheat and barley were being thrashed. This is dry- 
farming country, where the moisture of snow must carry through 
the growing season. 

Kuhdasht a mud village of perhaps two hundred families lies 
against the northern edge of the basin. When I arrived, the villagers 
(men only) were lined up for half a block or so to greet me. It 
was a grim, silent group. The air was tense; no one was relaxed or 
smiling. I knew at once that trouble was brewing, but I did not have 
the faintest notion what was afoot. 

The beginning of my understanding came when I started asking 
these peasants the same questions that I had put to the Papis. I was 


Gun Play at Kuhdasht in 

interested in learning the extent of individual landownership and 
the standard of living. The answers puzzled me. These men were in 
rags and tatters, yet each answered that he was a substantial land 
owner with large flocks and much grain. As the questioning pro 
ceeded I saw a trace of merriment in their eyes; and I realized I 
was being teased. Then I learned that an officer had preceded me to 
Kuhdasht and addressed the assembled villagers as follows, "A visitor 
is coming. He is seeking information. Be careful of your answers. 
Tell him nothing." A village elder had replied, "We will follow 
your instructions." The reason for the secrecy unfolded before dusk 
came and the battle started at Kuhdasht. 

All Mohammed Ghazanfari represents Kuhdasht in Persia s parlia 
ment. I had met Ghazanfari in Khorramabad and he had accom 
panied my party to Kuhdasht. He is a slight, dark, middle-aged 
man, who walks with a limp, a man of wealth and a pleasant, 
engaging companion. The mayor of Khorramabad is his cousin, 
Mohammed Hossein Ghazanfari. Apparently an efficient adminis 
trator, he practically wiped out malaria in Khorramabad by having 
every wall, every garden, and every stagnant pond sprayed period 
ically with DDT. 

The villagers at Kuhdasht had heard that the deputy wanted to 
make his cousin the Mayor of Kuhdasht. Though both the deputy 
and the mayor appeared to be enterprising and honest men, the 
very suggestion of the idea caused emotions to run high. With 
difficulty I put together from my talks at Kuhdasht with several 
villagers why this proposal caused a violent explosion. 

In the first place, Ghazanfari had large landholdings near Kuh 
dasht. Several boundary questions involving his land were being dis 
puted. He claimed land that others asserted was theirs. If Ghazan- 
farfs cousin became Mayor of Kuhdasht, Ghazanfari would win the 
boundary disputes. That at least was the villagers thought. But a 
larger issue smoldered underneath this one. 

Elections in Persia are supervised by the Army. Soldiers come 
rtdth a ballot box and ballots; the men of the village line up and drop 
:heir ballots in the box; the box is taken away; and the votes are 
counted at some central place in the district. 

/ 12 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

"That is the way Ghazanfari was elected," a young vilkger said. 

"Is he not a good deputy?" 

"No. He owns a lot of the land. He does nothing for us. Look 
how dirty our village is. See how miserable our children look. We 
have no schools, no doctors. If we are sick, we have no medicines." 

A middle-aged man interrupted. "Look at those children over 
Acre by the wall They are mine. I love them dearly. But do you 
know what? They will grow up to be as ignorant as I am." His 
voice mounted with emphasis and he fairly shouted, "That is not 

By this time there were a half dozen in the group surrounding me. 
They all nodded approval of the speaker. 

"If your deputy does not pass laws which help your condition, 
why don t you elect a new one?" I asked. 

That statement made the group laugh. 

"You do not understand," the last speaker said. "This deputy is a 
big landowner. He will not pass laws for our benefit. He is not our 
true representative. Yet he is all we can get." 

I turned to the first speaker, the young man, and put my hand on 
his shoulder, saying, "Here s a good man. I wager he understands 
your problems. Elect him to the Majlis; then you ll get the kws 
you want." 

My candidate spoke up. "Let me explain. The Army comes with 
the ballot box and the ballots. The ballots are already printed; there 
is one name on them the name of the candidate the Army wants. 
We line up, receive our ballots, and march by the box and drop 
them in." 

"Write in a different name," I said. "That s what we do in 

"That is impossible. This is not America. Soldiers are here with 
bayonets. We must vote for the candidate the Army wants. And the 
Army always wants the big landlord." 

An old man spoke up, "This will change. Our people will not 
stand it much longer. Did you hear what happened in Lar?" 

I shook my head. 

"Lar [a town not far from Shiraz] had an election this year. 
The people would not obey the Army; they had a candidate of 
their own; they tore up the ballots of the Army and put their own 
ballots in the box. Then the board came to count the ballots, [The 

Ghashghal mansion and gardens, Shiraz 

Old home of Ilkhan o Debukri tribe of Kurds, Bukan 

\\isst-r Khun, head ui thv Ghashgluis 
\uth the author on Nanidam plain 

Ghashghais on fall migration, 1950 

Kurdish \\omen, Debukn tribe, \\aslung dishes in spring, Bukan 

on fall migration, 1950 Ainar Khan Sharlfi, Ilklian of the Shakkak 

tribe of the Kurds 

Lurs sacrificing steer in honor of arrival of the author 

A tvpical Kurd 

Ziad Khan, winner of the Ghashghai 
shooting contest 

Bakhtiari performing a stick dance 

mg floor, Azerbaijan 

Bakhtiari women 

I d 

irteza Gholi Khan Samsam, Ilkhan of the Bakhtians, Shalamzar 

** S$ 

-JS?^ * v * 

Persian goats eat e\en the blossoms of 

Russian border, Azerl 


Persian girl gathering chips for winter fuel 

A street in a typical Persian village Typical tent and family of Bakhtiari 


The author and Ahmad Khan, chief of the Papi tribe of the Lurs 

The author mter\ ie\\mg Lurs of the Papi tribe 

Maku, Azerbaijan 

Gun Play at Kuhdasht 113 

board, I later learned, is a committee appointed by the Governor 
of the district.] The word spread that the board was crooked, that 
the board would count the ballots wrong and declare that the 
Army s man won. The people of Lar got excited. They formed 
a mob and stormed the city hall ten thousand people went after 
the board. The mob had no guns, only knives and sticks and bare 
hands. They killed six members of the board. They tore them apart. 
There was no piece left of one man bigger than his ear." (I learned 
later that ten villagers were convicted; the convictions of four of 
these were reversed; and the appeals of the other six were still pend 
ing in the fall of 1950.) 

There was a tense silence as the old man ended. The young man 
was defiant as he said, "Our people aren t going to stand this much 
longer. We are going to have free elections or else." 

The tea tendered by the khan of the Tarhans at Kuhdasht was a 
difficult occasion. The atmosphere was charged. No one said a 
word. I tried to start a conversation about irrigation projects for 
the valley, but no one replied except a mullah, and he gave no life 
to my questions. I had planned to stay in Kuhdasht overnight. But 
during the tea Shahbaz, my interpreter, whispered to me, "One of 
the villagers who spoke to you hopes you don t stay tonight. He 
likes you but fears you may get hurt." 

"Why?" I asked. 

"The villagers think the deputy is using you to strengthen his 
position here. They say Ghazanfari is counting on your prestige 
and your presence to help him in his plan." 

I changed my schedule and returned to Khorramabad that night. 
Thirty minutes after I left a pitched battle took place in the streets 
of Kuhdasht Ghazanfari and his crowd on one side, a sizable 
number of rebellious villagers on the other. Some blood was shed; 
but no one was killed. 

The moon was high over Luristan on our trip down in the jeep. 
The limestone mountains were big hulks, glistening in the moon 
light and making fantastic shapes. The water of the Kashgan had a 
silver sheen. The whole valley looked like fairyland Kuhdasht 
already seemed like a dream. Everything seemed unreal except the 
Lurs, and they reminded me of embattled Americans. 

14. The Bakhtiari Save the Constitution 

MORTEZA GHOLI KHAN SAMSAM, head of the Bakhtiari, looks like 
Monty Woolley and has a range of facial expressions almost as great. 
He is short and stocky with a round head that sits close to his 
shoulders. His gray hair and full beard are clipped short. His dark 
eyes are animated with excitement, laughter, surprise, anger, resent 
ment or any mood which the conversation arouses. He has lived in 
Europe, and is a man of considerable learning, who would be at 
home in any American circle. He is robust like West Texas, but 
there is a gentle and mystic quality as well. He is a devout, God 
fearing man. 

He is also a considerable political figure. He so managed tribal 
affairs and tribal conduct that the devastation which hit the Lurs 
never struck the Bakhtiari. He has been an astute leader. His father, 
he himself, and now one of his sons has held public office. He keeps 
the tribe well represented in the Majlis. The beautiful girl whom 
the Shah recently married is a Bakhtiari. Yet Morteza Gholi Khan 
is no mere political conniver. He is bold and daring as well. It was 
he, as I will relate, who in 1909 led the Bakhtiari cavalry against a 
former Shah, captured Tehran, and saved the Constitution for 

Morteza Gholi Khan dresses in American style with but one dif 
ference. He seldom wears a necktie. But a big, gold collar button 
always shows in his soft, rolled collar. 

He had two wives. The first was a Ghashghai. By her he had 
tall, rangy Jahanshah, present Governor General of Kermanshah, 
By the other wife, a Bakhtiari, he had three sons Amir Bahman, 
Ahmad Gholi, and Fereydoon. I do not know how many daughters 
he had. The sons are all well-educated, Bahman, like his cousin, 
Majid, has a pilot s license and flies a Beechcraft 


The Bakhtiari Save the Constitution 

Morteza Gholi Khan had in addition to his full-fledged wives, 
four contract wives. Under Persian-Moslem law a man is entitled 
not only to four regular wives; he may also have as many contract 
wives as he wants and can arrange for. It is not an idle matter. The 
mullah must approve the contract, its duration, and the amount of 
money payable to the woman. Children born under the contract 
are lawful. At the end of the contract the relation is ended and may 
not be renewed. The woman goes her way, leaving any children 
behind and keeping only the consideration which the contract 
provided. Morteza Gholi Khan tired of his contract wives; but he 
was deeply devoted to his full-fledged wives. 

Shalamzar, the summer home of Morteza Gholi Khan, lies sixty- 
five hundred feet high in a broad fertile valley of southwest Persia 
rimmed by high mountains, west and slightly north about two 
hundred miles from Isfahan. The route from Isfahan lies across a 
wide plateau strewn with pieces of old mountains. Sometimes a 
lone ridge will run along for miles; at other times only a relic of 
a range will be left. One relic is shaped like a loaf of bread, another 
like a cone or the bristling back of an animal. One sticks up like 
a spire, another shows a notch like a slingshot. At dusk or in the 
moonlight they take on a magic quality. 

When Morteza Gholi Khan was married about forty years ago 
he built a castlelike house at Shalamzar, a tall, awkward, stone 
affair with high ceilings and huge windows. More recently he built 
another massive house on a ridge to the east. It commands a vast 
domain. Morteza Gholi Khan at seventy-five rides his spirited 
Arabian stallion up the steep mountainside that leads to this house. 
On the slopes below, he is experimenting with apples, quinces, 
pears, almonds, walnuts. 

Water for irrigating the orchards comes from a spring that bub 
bles out from rocks high on the ridge, but the water for the fields in 
the valley is obtained through a qanat, an underground type of 
waterway which one sees from Damascus on east. It is an ancient 
institution, antedating the Romans. From the air a qanat is a string 
of mounds of earth that often extends for miles; sometimes there 
are two streaks of mounds that join together and make a Y. 

The qanat supplies water where no spring or stream is in evidence. 
A narrow well is dug perhaps ten, twenty, or thirty feet deep. If 

n6 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

water is found (even though it is only a trickle) another narrow 
well is dug one hundred feet or perhaps one hundred yards down 
the slope. Then the two wells are connected by a tunnel. The 
process is repeated until a chain of dozens of wells all feeding the 
same tunnel is constructed. A stream that started as a trickle far up 
the hillside often swells into a roaring underground torrent several 
miles down the valley. That is the way many villages in Persia 
build their irrigation systems. 

Shalamzar is not only an agricultural settlement; it also has a 
home industry. The fourteen hundred people who live there have 
a sizable and respectable bazaar, located in low mud buildings that 
are shaded by spindly, fast-growing poplars. The Bakhtiari make 
beautiful Persian rugs in this village. 

I visited Shalamzar both in 1949 and in 1950. Morteza Gholi 
Khan was my host. I did not realize on my first visit that in Persia 
friendship is sealed by breaking bread together and exchanging 
stories. Morteza Gholi Khan quickly sealed ours. He swept me off 
my feet with his stories. They were mostly stories of his adventures 
with the Bakhtiari cavalry which in olden days he proudly led. 
Once, he told me, his troops stopped to bury a man who had been 
killed. They had no shovel or pick; so they dug the grave with 
their hands. There are quite a few poisonous scorpions in this 
country, but only one is a deadly species and it is rather tiny. One 
of these tiny scorpions bit the hand of one of the gravediggers. 

"In twenty minutes his arm was swollen so big," said Morteza 
Gholi Khan, indicating the size of a water melon. "In two hours he 
was dead; and we buried him in the grave with the other soldier." 
I changed the storytelling to a lighter note, and gained a temporary 
advantage by relating Jack Nelson s mosquito story from the 
Cascade Mountains of Washington. I told how Jack one night rid 
himself of the mosquitoes in his tent by putting a candle to them 
one by one and burning them crisp. All went well until the grand- 
daddy mosquitp outfoxed Jack by blowing out the candle. 

Morteza Gholi Khan had heard many wonderful things about 
America how tall the buildings^ how fast the airplanes; how big 
this; how broad that. But he had never heard of such mosquitoes. 
He said he thought he had big mosquitoes at Shalamzar; but none 
of them could perform such a feat. His eyes were wide with amaze- 

The Bakhtiari Save the Constitution 7/7 

ment as he pondered the spectacle. When at last he realized the 
nature of the story, he laughed harder than anyone else. 

We ended the first evening together by drinking a toast I 
tendered: a toast to the rearming of the Bakhtiari. The old man 
stood erect and squared his shoulders, his eyes glistening with 
excitement, He once more was leading a charge of Bakhtiari cavalry 
and for a moment relived early days of military glory. 

One morning at Shalamzar I persuaded Morteza Gholi Khan to 
tell me how he saved the constitution for Persia. We sat upstairs 
in a tremendous drawing room (perhaps thirty by thirty) carpeted 
with a Persian rug which his Ghashghai wife had made to order. 
It took two hours for the story to be told. The telling of it was a 
work of art and revealed an expert s grasp of Persian history. There 
was the hushed voice when he came to the conspiratorial part, the 
ringing commands to cavalry, the authoritarian ultimatum to the 
Shah s general, the charge of the troops when Tehran fell. The 
story was so beautifully and dramatically told that it almost had 
sound effects. 

At the turn of this century Muzaffar-ed-Din was Shah of Persia. 
His rule was corrupt; the wealth of Persia was being siphoned off 
for the extravagances of the Shah and his court, and there was great 
discontent in the land. When the Shah appointed his son-in-law as 
Minister of Interior a storm of protest followed; for this man was 
associated with the corrupt and oppressive practices. The British, 
who long had been active in Persian affairs, persuaded the Shah to 
give a Magna Charta to Persia, A constitution was prepared and 
signed; it was ratified both by the Shah and by his heirs; and the 
Shah opened the first national assembly in October, 1906. A few 
days later the Shah died. 

The new Shah, Mohammed Ali, was an Oriental despot of the 
worst type. Though he swore fidelity to the constitution, he 
plotted to get rid of it. On December 15, 1908 he imprisoned the 
Prime Minister, had his Persian Cossacks seize the Majlis, and 
appointed a Military Governor for Tehran. The parliament de 
signed as the voice of the people of Persia was destroyed. 

Word of the disaster reached Morteza Gholi Khan in France. 
His father Najaf Gholi Khan Samsam-Os-Saltaneh sent for him. 
Vajaf Gholi Khan had moved into action as soon as the Shah had 

n 8 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

closed the Majlis. He summoned "warriors of a holy war." They 
came from Resht on the Caspian and Khorram-shahr on the Persian 
Gulf, They were mostly cavalry, well-armed and committed to the 
cause of liberty. Morteza Gholi Khan arrived in time to lead them. 

The Bakhtiari had had units in the cavalry of the Shah since the 
time of Cyrus and Darius. The Shah of Persia always asserted the 
right to levy one horseman and two foot soldiers on every ten 
families. Actually the recruitments were much less: the cavalry of 
the Bakhtiari in the Persian Army was limited to a few hundred, 
and they often served only as hostages for the good behavior of 
the tribe. There were several hundred in the cavalry of Mohammed 
Ali Shah. They were sent to persuade Morteza Gholi Khan to turn 
back and not to attack Tehran. 

"This changed my strategy," he told me. "I had one rule: a 
Bakhtiari must never fight a Bakhtiari." 

The Bakhtiari of the Shah s army were on the left flank. Morteza 
Gholi Khan whirled and attacked the right flank which were mostly 
Persian Cossacks; and the left flank of the Persian Army did not 
move into action. Thus he routed the Cossacks at Shahabad and 
stood before Tehran. 

Meanwhile a column had marched down from Resht and joined 
forces with Morteza Gholi Khan. Speedy action was necessary, 
since Russia had pledged aid to the Shah and had landed three 
thousand soldiers at Enzeli on the Caspian. On July 12, 1909 
Morteza Gholi Khan struck. He entered Tehran through the 
Behjit-Abad gate and captured the parliament. A battle inside 
Tehran raged for three days. Mohammed Ali, who had taken refuge 
in the Russian Embassy, was deposed; his son w r as crowned; and 
two Bakhtiaris went into the new cabinet. In 1911 Najaf Gholi 
Khan became Prime Minister. 

This was a moving story as it was told me at Shalamzar. As 
Morteza Gholi Khan finished he raised a clenched fist and said, 
"That was a proud day for Persia. That day we saved liberty and 
independence for our people. Now our people have a forum where 
they can complain even against their rulers, where they can pass 
laws that will improve their conditions." 

These words came back to me a few weeks later when I sat in 
the visitors gallery of the Majlis. 

The Bakhtiari Save the Constitution 

One deputy purported to speak on behalf of a small village: 
tribesmen had stolen two hundred of their sheep. 

Another deputy was speaking for some of the tribes: the Persian 
Army was preying on the tribes, practicing blackmail against them, 
and lining their pockets at the expense of the tribesmen. 

Then Mohammed Mossadegh (passionately Persian and anti- 
Soviet in his leanings, the one who was to be Prime Minister before 
a year had passed and cause Persia s oil to be nationalized) rose to 
attack the British oil concession. 

The institution, which Morteza Gholi Khan saved from extinction 
a generation earlier, was still functioning as a public forum. 

A Goat Does Justice 

OREGON, a Bakhtiari village of about three thousand people, lies in 
a broad, fertile valley about twenty-five miles southwest of Shal- 
amzar. This valley, rimmed by rough, barren hills, has rich bottom 
land, so that an abundance of springs makes it a fertile place. 

Persian clover, wheat, poppies (grown for opium), barley, melons, 
beans, squash, grapes thrive there. One can see hundreds of acres of 
wild hollyhocks in bloom, knee-high with heads as big as teacups. 
There are buff-colored partridge that thrive on the slopes; and if one 
walks softly he can hear them talking to each other. Walnut, poplar, 
willow, senjid, and elm trees grow where there is water. One such 
spot is a small bench a hundred feet above the valley. An ice-cold 
stream pours from the mountainside and runs through a stand of 
majestic walnuts with a spread of between one hundred and one 
hundred fifty feet each. These trees mark a historic spot. Just below 
them on the edge of the path leading to the bench is a rock where 
every Ilkhan of the Bakhtiari has sat and held court. Morteza Gholi 
Khan had not been to Oregon for twenty years. He came in my 
honor in 1950. Our camp was under the spreading walnuts on the 
bench. One morning a Bakhtiari came up the path on a run to an 
nounce in a breathless voice that the Ilkhan was coming. I went 
down to meet him and found him seated on the ancient rock with 
all the village elders at his feet. 

Morteza Gholi Khan and I sat on an exquisite Bahktiari rug under 
the walnuts and talked of Bakhtiari customs and law. These tribes 
have a hierarchy of chiefs. The Ilkhan is the head chief, the leader 
of many tribes. Next in order comes the khan, and then the kalantar, 
kadkhoda and rish-safid. The latter is the elder or white beard of 
a clan or of a village. 


A Goat Does Justice 121 

The Kurds and the Lurs divide judicial functions between the 
khans on the one hand and the mullahs or priests on the other. 
The Bakhtiari, though very religious and devout Moslems, have no 
mullahs among them. The khans handle the matters which the mullah 
customarily administers; and, as among the other tribes, adjudicate 
all civil and criminal disputes or controversies besides. Their system 
of rewards and punishments differs in some details from that of 
the Kurds and Lurs, but in general the concept of justice is similar. 
There is one important difference. The Bakhtiari, like the northern 
tribes, assess damages for manslaughter, the family of the killer 
being required to pay to the family of the deceased from $2,000 to 
$2,500 depending on the age and condition of the deceased. But the 
Bakhtiari do not stop there. They require the family of the killer to 
give a sister or daughter in marriage to a member of the family of 
the deceased. This custom goes back to immemorial days. Morteza 
Gholi Khan explained it this way. "The union of blood works in 
a mystic way. It washes away all desire for retaliation. The two 
warring families become peacefully united as one." 

After awhile the conversation turned to God, the immortality 
of the soul, the life hereafter. Morteza Gholi Khan believes there 
is a Heaven and a Hell. He believes the body dies, but not the soul 
or spirit. He talked of the troubled world, his own advancing years, 
the threat of Russia and communism. He thought his days of use 
fulness were about over because his legs were going bad on him 
and he could not walk with ease. I told him of Franklin Roosevelt, 
who could not walk a step and yet was elected President four times. 

"Yes, but your wonderful man Roosevelt had youth and I have 
only age," he replied. He went on to say that he felt his death was 
near. Only the other day he ordered his grave dug. It is right next 
to his father s grave. He had a headstone prepared; his name and 
date of birth were engraved on it. "The addition of the date of my 
death is all I have left the Russians to do," he said. 

"You think the Russians will invade Persia?" 

"One day the Communists from Russia will come like a flood 
and sweep all of Persia before them. They will shoot me and all 
like me, for I am the symbol of all they hate." Then he added with 
emphasis, "I will not run away. I will stay right here, and die with 
my people." 

There was a long silence while the old man sat lost in his thoughts. 

122 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

He looked up and his eyes were searching me as he asked, "Do you 
believe in God?" 

"Yes, I do." 

"Will you believe a story if I tell it to you?" he asked. "I can t 
tell you unless you promise to believe it." 

"I will believe it if you say it is true." 

"It is true." 

"Then I will believe it." There was a long pause as Morteza 
Gholi Khan put the pieces of his story together. When it came, 
the telling had the polish and f orcefulness of Walter Hampden. 

"It was the fall of the year, perhaps twenty-five years ago, and 
the tribes had started their migration south. Many groups had gone 
ahead; I was still at Shalamzar. Word came to me that there was 
trouble between two tribes. A dispute had arisen over some sheep. 
Hot words developed into a fight. One man was killed. Since he 
was killed while a large group of men were milling around, no one 
could be sure just who the killer was. The khans who were handling 
the case were troubled and perplexed. They could not decide 
whether or not the one accused was guilty. 

"I sent word ahead to hold twenty men from each tribe including 
the accused; that I would be there in about a week. 

"I reached there by horseback in six days. The khans and the 
twenty men from each of the two quarreling tribes were waiting 
for me at a village. Twenty men stood on one side of the road, 
twenty on the other. They remained standing while the khans and 
I had a consultation. As we were talking, a herd of goats came 
down the road. In the lead was a big billy, who led the other goats 
between the two rows of men. 

"When the lead goat got opposite the man who was accused of 
the killing, he stopped for just a second. Then quick as a flash he 
put his head down and charged this man. It happened so quickly 
and unexpectedly that the goat caught the man off guard. He hit 
him in the stomach with a terrible thump. The man fell to the 
ground; his eyes rolled; and in just a few minutes he was dead." 

Morteza Gholi Khan s voice had been loud as he acted out the 
drama of the goat and the man and showed with gestures what had 
happened. Now his voice was hushed. 

"When the men saw what had happened they fell on each other s 
necks and started kissing one another." 

A Goat Does Justice 123 

"Why did they do that?" I interposed. 

"Why did they do that?" Morteza Gholi Khan said in a voice 
expressing surprise that I need ask. "They did it because all of us 
who were there knew at once that God had appeared through a 
goat and done justice." 

16. An Audience at Oregon 

THE BAKHTIARI are south of the Lurs and north of the Ghashghais. 
Their lands are 26,250 square miles and extend southward from 
Luristan to Khuzistan and westward from Isfahan province to 
Andimeshk. They number today about 600,000 people. About half 
of them are sedentary; the other half migrate. Merian C. Cooper 
has told the story of their migration in the book Cms and in the 
movie by the same name. 

The Bakhtiari, like most tribes of Persia, have two homes: one is 
called the garmsir or hot district (which is below thirty-five 
hundred feet elevation) and the other the sardsir or cold district 
(which is over six thousand feet). In each of these districts they 
own land and plant crops. Khuzistan, the garmsir, is very parched 
and insufferably hot in the summer. But the soil is rich and, when the 
rains come, will grow grain higher than a horse s belly. Grain is 
planted in the fall and harvested in March or early April. During 
that period there is grass for the flocks. The sheep are the flat- 
tailed Asian species. The feed is so good that by April their tails 
will weigh twenty pounds or even more. By April the trek starts 
to the mountain valleys up north. It is a rugged journey. There 
usually is snow in the passes. There are many streams to cross, 
streams that are ice-cold and in flood. Women and children and 
household possessions are floated across on inflated goatskins, tied 
together to form large rafts and paddled by one or two men who 
kneel at the bow. It is a cruel, challenging ordeal for everyone, 
and especially severe on the men when they take the livestock 
across. Each man has two goatskins tied together like waterwings. 
He floats on these and paddles, guiding cattle, sheep, and donkeys 
across the icy waters. (Goats usually ride the rafts.) He does it 
not only once but dozens of times as he makes trip after trip, hold- 


An Audience at Oregon 125 

ing a wild steer by the horn, keeping a baby donkey above the 
water by hanging on to its ear, swimming along with sheep to 
make sure none drowns. 

Men, women, and children work their way through marshland 
above their knees, negotiate steep canyons, and struggle through 
deep snow as they climb to the passes. The old and the sick ride; 
women with babies on their backs walk. Calves and lambs must be 
carried up steep trails and through snowbanks. Babies are born on 
the migrations; but the mother never stops more than a day to 
perform the ritual of birth. Camp must be made every night; people 
and animals must be fed. The pace is slow; there are two hundred 
miles or more to cover. On the fall migration when the tribe leaves 
the mountains for the southland they cover this distance in about 
twenty days. The streams are low, and there is no snow. But on 
the way north in the spring it takes them better than a month to 
make the journey. 

When the valleys of Shalamzar and Oregon are reached, there is 
green grass everywhere. Bottom lands are lush; hundreds of acres 
of multicolored iris and dozens of other wild flowers fill the basins; 
there is grass on the lower slopes of the mountains; there will be 
grass higher up as the snow melts, enough to carry the herds into 
the middle of summer. 

In September, just before starting the migration south, the tribes 
sow winter wheat. When they come back in the spring, the crop 
is up. This crop is harvested in July. But first, on their return in 
May, they plant a second crop, grown under irrigation and 
harvested in late August or early September. Some tribesmen will 
have stayed the winter at Oregon, Shalamzar, or other villages, 
taking care of their own property or acting as caretakers for friends 
or neighbors. There is gaiety and festivity on the reunion. An 
orchestra of drum and horn, which has pkyed all along the route of 
the migration to lighten the loads of the tribesmen, now plays for 
dances in celebration of the return. 

Reza Shah succeeded in stopping these migrations for a while. He 
took all the Bakhtiari chiefs to Tehran and either imprisoned them 
or put them under protective custody. He sent his army among 
the Bakhtiari and forced them to settle in villages. But six months 

126 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

after he abdicated in 1941, the migrations were under way once 

One afternoon at Oregon I was riding with Bahman, son of 
Morteza Gholi Khan, and several dozen of the Bakhtiari. The 
Bakhtiari love to line their horses up shoulder to shoulder and then 
stampede them. I, being the guest, had the place of honor, which 
was out in front. It s an exciting ride when one is a part of a mass 
of thundering horseflesh going on a dead run across a plain. Horses, 
I think, have a mob psychology as well as people. Each runs with 
fury, intent that no horse shall pass him. Since they run shoulder 
to shoulder in a mad pace, one misstep would be disaster for both 
horse and rider. 

When we stopped to water the horses on our way home, the 
discussion turned to the effect on the Bakhtiari of the attempt by 
Reza Shah to stop the migrations. Some of the tribesmen were 
settled in unhealthy places and died. Their flocks decreased because 
they needed both the lowlands and the highlands for grazing. 
Disease spread and the level of health dropped. And finally, disaster 
hit the horses of the Bakhtiari. Settlement in one village meant a 
restriction of pasture. Horses died from the severe cold of the high 
mountains in winter. Those who were settled permanently in winter 
quarters had to sell their horses, for forage in the hot low country 
was sufficient only for a fraction of the year. Stables were badly 
depleted. Today there are few thoroughbreds left. Bahrnan and a 
few of the khans have Arabian stallions. But the bulk of the horses 
which are relatively few are mixed breeds. Now there are many 
geldings; and dysentery is prevalent. 

On the last horseback ride we had together Bahman said to me, 
"Cyrus the Great loved Persia because of its men and its horses. 
Now we have only the men left." 

There are poor people among the Bakhtiari. There are some so 
poor they are gleaners in the Biblical sense: they pick up the stems 
of grain left on the thrashing floor or in the field after the harvest 
is finished. A picture I can never forget is an old, wizened lady 
sitting under the shade of a poplar near a Bakhtiari grainfield and 
picking out the heads of wheat one by one from a handful of straw 
she had found in the field. 

A man of the Bakhtiari is poor if he has only thirty sheep. He is 

An Audience at Oregon 127 

well off if he has two hundred. He is wealthy if he has one thousand, 
since sheep are worth these days about ten dollars a head. Most 
Bakhtiari own some land and some sheep or goats. They are not 
by and large the tenant class. The khans own large acreages; their 
farms are worked in part by Bakhtiari and in part by Armenians. 
The khans own oil land and prior to nationalization leased it to 
British interests. Some of the tribal land includes the slopes and 
peaks of mountains. These can be grazed by any member of the 
tribe. Sometimes grazing land of another tribe is used; but that 
requires a rental of so much a head. 

The Bakhtiari are not scientific farmers. They plow with sticks 
pulled by oxen (and instead of gee and haw they use low, almost 
inaudible whistles); their methods of reaping and thrashing are 
primitive; they know little about modern agriculture or fertilizers; 
the use of sprays is largely foreign to them. Bahman and some of 
the khans are introducing tractors for the breaking of wheat land 
in Khuzistan, but the average Bakhtiari, owing to lack of experience, 
has no feel for machinery and the wheel. 

One night at Oregon the kalantars, kadkhodas, and rish-safids 
asked to see me. About thirty came up to the bench where we were 
camped under the walnut trees. We sat on Persian rugs facing each 
other; they on one side, Bill and I on the other. Gasoline lanterns 
showed faces serious and intent. They sat quietly together, each 
with a tall, black brimless felt hat on his head. 

The Bakhtiari are mostly tall and rangy. They have larger frames 
than the Lurs but, like them, are dark and swarthy. Yet once in a 
while the Bakhtiari produce a redhead with blue eyes. There were 
a few such among the men who came to see me this night at Oregon. 

I thanked the group for their hospitality. I compared Oregon, 
U. S. A., with their Oregon; and I told them of the interest which 
America long has had in Persia. They had appointed one of their 
kalantars as their spokesman. He had thought out his speech, and 
delivered it with sincerity and emphasis: 

i. The primary need of the Bakhtiari is medical care. They need 
doctors. There are only three doctors for every 250,000 people. 
There is none in Oregon or any nearby village. "If our wives or 
children get sick," he said, "all we can do is pray. If God wills it, 
they live." 

n8 Strmge Lmds and Friendly People 

2. The Bakhtiari have no hospitals, no way to care for sick people. 

3. The Bakhtiari have practically no schools. The children grow 
up, unable to read or write, Thus they are in no position to help 

4. The Bakhtiari have very poor roads* It is difficult for them to 
get their crops to market (I remember how our jeep almost got 
washed away in a river on our way to Oregon). 

5. The Bakhtiari need to be taught fanning. They do not know 
how to drill wells and irrigate, how to plow, how to use fertilizer 
and sprays, how to farm with machinery. 

6. The Bakhtiari want to be rid of the oppressions of Army rule. 
Soldiers are quartered among them and live off them, exacting 
tribute and fines for imaginary misdeeds. 

This in a nutshell was the two-hour talk. It was illustrated by 
examples and episodes; and others occasionally broke in to add 
their bit. There was complete silence and concentration as the woes 
of the Bakhtiari poured forth from this eloquent speaker. He spoke 
of the loyalty of the Bakhtiari to the Shah and the tribal chiefs. He 
ended by saying, "Ask America if she will help us get doctors and 
schools; ask America if she will help teach us how to farm." 

We drank a toast (in water) to the Shah and then to the President 
of the United States; and the solemn group of Bakhtiari elders filed 
down the hill 

My friends, the Bakhtiari, had not heard of the important medical 
program that is just under way at Shiraz under the auspices of Dr. 
Sabih Ghorbtn. Shiraz has a new modem medical school which a 
student attends for four years. He then must go with a midwife 
and a public-health man to a village or group of villages for two 
years. During that period this team teaches public health and first 
aid to the villagers, treats illnesses, vaccinates the people, and so on. 
At the end of two years the student returns to medical school for 
three years. Persia is a large country a fifth of the size of the 
United States and Dr. Ghorban s school will have no more than 
fifty students. But this start on the public health of Persia is out 

I stopped in hundreds of villages in many lands from the Mediter 
ranean to the Pacific and talked with the peasants. They were in 
variably as articulate about their problems and their needs as the 

An Audience at Oregon 12$ 

kalantar who spoke for the Bakhtiari. Concern for the health and 
education of the family always topped the list. 

Communist propaganda undoubtedly has made peasants more 
rebellious. Even in the remote Bakhtiari country, the tribesmen 
learn what is going on in the world about as fast as we do. The 
bounties and riches of civilization are no longer secret to these 
plowmen and goatherds. And they will not long be denied them. 

17. Persian Hospitality 

WFSTFRN CIVILIZATION owes much to Persia. The English-speaking 
community is especially indebted. Through Persian literature and 
trade a rich stream of words has entered our language khaki, divan, 
hocus-pocus, shawl, julep, sash, awning, turquoise, taffeta, orange, 
lemon, peach, hazard, and hundreds of others. There are also many 
words that sound close: two do, six shesh, is ist, daughter 
dMt&r, no na^ brother barader, mother mader, father pedar. 

I have mentioned earlier the contribution of Persia to the arts 
and to medicine. Persia gave the world rug weaving; and it put 
immortal poetry on the lips of all men. The Persian cat should be 
added to the list an animal bred for long hair w r hich is useful in 
making brushes for artists. And Persia has probably done more to 
perfect the breeding of the Arabian horse than even the Arabs 

Yet the finest gift, I think, that the Persians have shown the 
world is hospitality. It can be illustrated by a lunch with the Shah, 
a dinner with the Prime Minister, a garden party tendered by the 
Governor of Isfahan, or by the reception of Amar Khan Sharifi or 
Mortcza Gholi Khan Samsam. But as I told the present Shah of 
Persk, Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, the finest example I ex- 
perieiKed was in the Bakhtiari mountains. 

We were camped at Oregon and scheduled to climb Mount Kalar 
the morning of our last day. The aim of the trip was primarily to 
hunt the ibex and secondarily to do a bit of mountaineering. Kalar, 
over twelve thousand feet high, rises about five thousand feet above 
Oregon. OIKC the approaches are cleared, the mountain itself is a 
series of cliffs of Jurassic limestone with setbacks reminiscent of 
New York City skyscrapers. The higher ledges are streaked with 


Persian Hospitality 

snow beyond midsummer. The climbing is mostly rock work, noth 
ing daring or particularly hazardous, only wearing. The cliffs and 
slopes offer no shade; there s not a shrub or a tree to be seen. The 
cliffs are warm to the touch from the hot Persian sun; there are 
practically no springs from top to bottom; one needs to dress 
lightly and carry a good supply of water with him. 

I awoke that morning with a temperature of 101 degrees and a 
nauseating attack of dysentery. But since it was my last day in 
Bakhtiari country, I decided to climb Kalar anyway. We had 
planned to leave at 5 A.M. and finally managed it at 7. We had an 
hour s horseback ride to the base of Kalar, and took another hour 
hunting partridge in the thistle-filled ravine where we left the 
horses. These partridge buff-colored and a bit larger than our 
GambePs quail have a low, fast, swooping flight. They are difficult 
to hit. But when they are flushed from thistles there is a split second 
when they are vulnerable. They must first rise vertically three or 
four feet before they can take off. It is that instant when the 
Bakhtiari like to shoot them. We had several from each covey; and 
a Bakhtiari would carefully slit the throat of each. Otherwise the 
meat would be unclean by Moslem standards. 

By the time we had finished hunting partridge and started the 
ascent, the sun was burning with authority. It was to be a still, hot 

I climbed about two thousand feet and then turned back. My 
canteen was empty, my tongue stuck to my mouth, my temples 
throbbed. I was sick and weak from fever and dysentery. So far 
as the hunt was concerned and apart from the item of pride, my 
turning back made no particular difference. This hunting party 
would never have bagged an ibex. I was accompanied by a dozen 
Bakhtiari. The climb for them was a lark; they were like school 
boys on a vacation. They ran up the rocks with the agility of the 
ibex, talking, laughing, shouting as they climbed. Any ibex could 
have heard them a mile away. 

When I turned back, they continued the hunt. I cleared the 
ledges and returned to the base of Kalar where we had left the 
horses. I was three hours ahead of the time when the horses would 
return; the sun was relentless; and the fever had me badly shaken. 
In the distance a black Bedouin-like tent hugged the base of the 
mountain, and I headed for it. 

Strange Lands and Friendly People 

These tents are made of goat wool. Women spin a thread about 
as coarse as a heavy string and weave the cloth into black strips 
about eighteen inches wide and twenty feet long. They then sew 
the strips together, making the cloth for the back and top of the 
tent. The other side and the two ends are usually open. 

There was not a tree or shrub in sight; no shade but that of the 
tent. A small spring was a stone s throw away. A man, a young 
boy, three children, and two girls about fifteen and sixteen years old 
were by the tent. One girl was spinning wool into yarn; the other 
was milking the fifty sheep and goats that were patiently standing in 

The man invited me in. He went to the back of the tent and 
unrolled a small but beautiful Persian rug and laid it in front of 
me, motioning for me to sit. He brought out a blanket and placed 
it under my head for a pillow. He took a large kettle of mast, 
poured some of it into a smaller pot, and mixed it with water from 
a goatskin. This mixture is known as dugh, a very healthy drink 
in this area. He scattered some brownish spice over the dugh and 
handed it to me. I drank deeply and then lay back to sleep. 

Just before I went to sleep, I thought how gracious and genuine 
a Persian s hospitality can be. When I walked into the tent, it 
became mine. I was left to myself. The man, the girls, and the 
children went about their own business. No one stood gaping at me. 
This was my new home for the moment. I had complete privacy. 

How long I slept I do not know. But when I awoke, I was fresh 
and renewed and I went my way after thanking the man and present 
ing a jackknife to the boy. The scene came back to me over and 
again as I passed through the drawing rooms of America, Europe, 
and Asia. There I met gracious hosts and hostesses well-educated, 
charming, and warm-hearted who showed me every courtesy and 
consideration. Yet somehow the hospitality of the little goatherd on 
Mount Kalar surpassed all the rest. He not only turned over his 
whole house to me, made me a bed, gave me nourishing food, and 
respected my privacy, but when I first asked if I might rest in his 
tent, he bowed graciously and said in musical words that still 
ring in my ears: "My hut is poor and dirty but you may sit in the 
light of my eyes." 

IS. A Goatherd Sparks a Revolt 

THE GHASHGHAIS (Qashqais) are from a different stock than the 
Lurs or Bakhtiari. The Ghashghais are Turks. Their home is Ears, 
the southern province that has Shiraz as its capital and which 
geographically was ancient Persia. How they happened to come to 
Ears even the Ghashghais do not know, but they have been in Ears 
about seven centuries. 

The Ghashghais are a strong, wiry, rangy people. They have a 
Turkish dialect; and they have Turkish features as well, with high 
cheekbones and prominent noses. Their hair ranges from fair to 
black. Their eyes are dark usually brown or hazel. Their name 
has a Turkish origin: some say it comes from the Turkish verb 
ghachmak meaning to flee; others say it derives from ghashga, 
meaning a horse with a white spot on the breast. 

They began to form a strong unity as a tribe under the rule of 
Nadir Shah (1736-1747), with whom they rode when he invaded 
India, captured Delhi, and returned with millions of dollars of spoils 
including the famous Peacock Throne. And they kept their unity 
through succeeding wars, depredations, and famines. When the 
central government became weak, near the end of the nineteenth 
century, the Ghashghais flourished under the leadership of Solat-ud- 
Dowleh, father of the present khans. They became a nation of 
themselves, commanding most of southwest Persia, and ruled 
supreme until World War I. At that time the British organized the 
South Persia Rifles and in 1918 defeated the Ghashghais; thereafter 
their power declined. 

When Reza Shah came to power, he also moved against them, 
seizing their Ilkhan and his eldest son, Nasser Khan. The other sons 
left Persia Malek Mansour going to England where he studied for 
six years at Oxford, Mohammed Hossein going to school in Ger- 


Strange Lands and Friendly People 

many, Khosrov staying in Tehran and reporting to the police every 
morning on his way to school. 

SoIat-ud-DowIeh, the Ilkhan, was murdered in prison; he was 
given coffee heavily dosed with poison. Today this is called "Pahlavi 
coffee* in the Ghashghai country. That was in 1933. For eight long 
years the heavy hand of the Army lay on the tribes. When the 
British and Russians in 1941 took over Persia and Reza Shah ab 
dicated, the tribes began to stir. The four sons of Solat-ud-Dowleh 
returned, and the tribes rallied around them. Nasser Khan, the 
eldest son, was recognized as Ilkhan. Arms were bought, or stolen, or 
smuggled into the country, and the Ghashghais became a well- 
organized, vigilant, disciplined group. By 1946 they had regained 
their freedom and independence and demonstrated it in a daring 
and dramatic manner. 

The year 1945-1946 was a fateful one for Persia. There was a 
Russian-sponsored Kurdish Republic at Mahabad, and another Rus 
sian-sponsored government at Tabriz, headed by Jafar Pishevari, 
both of which I have already described. After the Russian Army 
withdrew from Persia, Europe and America lost interest in the 
country; its problems seemed solved. But Russia, wise in political 
strategy, knew that when the interest of the West lagged, it was 
an opportune time for her to become active. That was an easy 
formula for Russia to apply to Persia, isolated from the West, lying 
inland a great distance from the Mediterranean, and pressed close 
to the southern border of Russia. A nation in a position so remote 
from friends is susceptible to influence from a more powerful and 
hostile neighbor. So when Persia ceased to be headline interest in 
America, she was swept closer to Soviet influence. 

In 1946 Qavam-os-Saltaneh was Prime Minister of Persia. On 
August 2, 1946 he made a move which was a plain indication that 
he was under the pressure of Soviet power: he made changes in his 
cabinet to include Tudeh party members and sympathizers. 

This cabinet shift had immediate repercussions. On September 
23, 1946 the four Ghashghai khans sent a telegram to Qavam, 
reviewing the complaints of the tribes against the acts of Reza Shah 
and the growing discontent among the people of Fars. They made 
several demands: trial of officials who had exploited the tribes; the 
grant of greater autonomy to the people of Fars; a program of 

A Goatherd Sparks a Revolt 135 

education, health, and road construction; replacement of key Army 
officials with men of integrity and patriotism; and finally but most 
important, immediate change and reconstitution of the cabinet and 
the appointment of men noted for their integrity and patriotism. 
The telegram set twenty-four hours for action by Qavam and 
stated that if by then "a definite decision is not taken, we will not 
be blamed by our conscience and by history for any incident that 
may occur." 

The ultimatum was not met; and the Ghashghais and their tribal 
allies moved into action. They had several thousand cavalry equipped 
for thirty days of fighting but armed only with rifles. Their allies, 
the Hayat Davudi tribe, attacked Bushire on the Persian Gulf, 
which was defended by tanks. The tribesmen through expert 
marksmanship peppered the peepholes of the tanks and bombed 
them with bottles of gasoline. There were heavy casualties among 
the defenders of Bushire; and it fell in one day. While this was 
going on, a detachment of Ghashghai cavalry attacked Kazerun 
(between Bushire and Shiraz). It too fell; and the Ghashghais 
united their armies and marched on Shiraz. 

Meanwhile Jahanshah Samsam of the Bakhtiari (the son of Mor- 
teza Gholi Khan and the Ghashghai wife) was supposed to march 
on Isfahan with two thousand men. Jahanshah, however, had con 
fided his plans to a cousin, Abol Qasim Samsam, who swore to 
secrecy on the Koran. But Abol Qasim broke his promise and 
hurried with the news to the Army. (As a result a promise that is 
not kept is called today in Ghashghai country "an Abol-Qasim 
promise." The Army arrested Jahanshah, but as matters turned out 
the failure of his part of the plan was not fatal. As the attack on 
Shiraz started, the Qavam government negotiated with Nasser Khan 
through the commander of the Shiraz garrison. The demands of the 
Ghashghais were in large measure met; Qavam resigned; a new 
cabinet was created which did not contain the Tudeh members 
and sympathizers; and Jahanshah Samsam was released. The Ghash 
ghais returned to their flocks. 

One gets in Persia various versions of this rebellion. 

Some say the Persian Army had no heart to fight and would not 
do so. They point to General Afshar who resigned from the Army 
after this episode, allegedly in disgust, and who now drives a taxicab 
in Tehran. 

136 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

Others say the Ghashghais were vastly superior in skill and in 
will to fight. 

Some say the rebellion was inspired by the British who feared the 
spread of Tudeh influence to the oil fields. The Persian government 
on October i, 1946 did in fact formally demand the withdrawal 
of Alan C. Trott, British Consul General at Ahwaz and now 
British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, for participation in the re 

Some say the Ghashghais were motivated by the desire for 
plunder. They point out that, when the ports and custom houses 
at Bushire and neighboring cities were captured, much property 
disappeared. They estimate that the property which was seized 
(mostly sugar) was worth over $20,000,000. This is in addition to 
more than six thousand rifles, numerous machine guns, and millions 
of rounds of ammunition. 

The Ghashghais may well have profited from the revolution; and 
other figures may have been working behind the scenes. But I am 
convinced the project was motivated primarily by the concern of 
the Ghashghais over the admission of Communists into Qavam s 

Malek Mansour had studied history and government at Oxford 
and knew well the Communist techniques. Had not the Communists 
first infiltrated the governments of eastern Europe by taking over 
the portfolios of education, labor, propaganda, and industry? Was 
not the next step to obtain the portfolios of Army and foreign 

With Communists in the government, agents and provocateurs 
would be sent among the tribes, bribing, breeding dissension, play 
ing one kalantar against another, bleeding the people by blackmail. 
The Communist influence would be at work night and day among 
the Ghashghais, Bakhtiari, Lurs, and Kurds. Trouble would be 
certain to follow. There had been ominous signs already. Tudeh 
had been calling strikes in the summer of 1946. One strike in the 
oil fields along the Persian Gulf involved 100,000 employees, re 
sulted in heavy casualties, and caused the loss of 300,000 tons of oil. 
These were subjects of discussion in Nasser Khan s tent high in 
Ghashghai country. The decision to act was reached after full dis- 
OTssJon and deliberation, and after appraisal of the chances of win 
ning and the risks of defeat. The decision, though in final analysis 

A Goatherd Sparks a Revolt 757 

that of the Ghashghai brothers, was not imposed on the tribes. They 
too shared in it. And the way it was reached indicates the basic 
democracy of this tribal system. 

One day when the matter was being discussed in Nasser Khan s 
tent, many Ghashghais gathered around. They listened as the khans 
talked. Occasionally a kalantar would speak up. There were argu 
ments pro and con. Finally, Malek Mansour called to a goatherd 
standing on the outer circle and asked what he thought the 
Ghashghais should do. The goatherd did not hesitate but said at 
once, We must fight." 

That settled the matter. 

When Malek Mansour told me this tale, I asked him why he 
sought the advice of the goatherd. 

"It s always been that way in our tribe," he answered. "My 
father and his father, before taking a step important to the tribe, 
sought the advice of the tribesmen. We have unbounded faith in 
their loyalty and great respect for their common sense and good 
judgment. Once our grandfather was suspicious of an invitation 
extended by the Shah to visit Tehran. He had decided not to go, 
fearing treachery. A goatherd, who was on the outer circle of the 
group listening to the deliberations, spoke up and urged him to 
go. He went and it was best for the tribe that he did. The advice 
of a Ghashghai goatherd is usually good advice." 

19. "By My Mother s M/F 

WHEN REZA SHAH undertook to end the tribal migrations, it might 
be said he was only accelerating a trend, for the tendency through 
the years has been for all nomads of the Middle East to settle 
permanently. But whatever may be said of the merits of his program, 
it was executed by the Army in a barbaric way. 

The Ghashghais were forcibly stopped from migrating. Some 
settled on the hot, barren, waterless lands in the Gulf area where 
there is grazing for only a few months of the year. The government 
provided no irrigation projects. The people wasted away and their 
flocks perished. 

Others who were moved to rice areas along the Gulf fell victims 
to malaria. 

These nomads, who now were forced to become villagers, had 
no sense of village life. The settlements in which they were placed 
soon piled high with refuse; springs became polluted; typhoid and 
dysentery spread; a plague of trachoma hit the tribesmen. 

Those settled in the mountain country fared somewhat better, 
for the climate there is healthier. But these nomads did not know 
how to build warm houses, nor how to take care of themselves or 
their stock in freezing weather, nor how to irrigate and farm in 
settled communities. They suffered greatly from pneumonia, tuber 
culosis, and other throat and lung infections. Many, many died. 
The severe winters also killed off their livestock. One year the 
Darashori subtribe lost almost 90 per cent of their horses when the 
Army forced them to remain in the mountains all winter. 

The property of the khans was confiscated on the theory that 
the Ghashghais should pay the state the cost of conducting this 
campaign against them. Further, the central government appointed 


"By My Mother s Milk" 139 

as khans men who would humiliate the proud tribesmen and who 
could be counted on to play the government s game. 

The tribesmen died at such a rate that many think they would 
have been wiped out in a few decades had the conditions persisted. 
To live they had to migrate. And so they began to spend their 
wealth in bribing Army officers to let them migrate. The Army 
fastened itself as a leech on these peoples; bribery and blackmail 
became the fashion and the order of the day. 

Qishlaq is a village of about seventy families. It lies northwest of 
Shiraz in Ghashghai country. The village and all the land around it 
is owned by a man named Agha Bozorg, who was a sergeant in 
the Persian Army for about fifteen years. During that time his 
salary was between seven dollars and twenty dollars a month. A 
few years ago he bought Qishlaq for $200,000 cash. I stopped at 
Qishlaq to see him; but he was away. I learned from the villagers 
that he is married to a woman who beats him and who occasionally 
takes a shot at him with a revolver. The villagers say that that is 
justice. They think Agha Bozorg got his $200,000 in a way for 
which he is now being punished. I do not know how Agha Bozorg 
got his wealth. But I learned how other sergeants and officers of 
the Persian Army amassed fortunes under Reza Shah. The following 
is one example. 

A sergeant, with an eye on wealth and fortune, stole a donkey in 
Ghashghai country. He stole the donkey at night, took it to a dis 
tant ravine, and killed it. Then he cut off the front feet, put them 
in his pockets and returned to his barracks, high in Ghashghai coun 
try. He bided his time. As he made the rounds of the tribes, he kept 
his eyes open for fat flocks, good crops, pure-blooded Arabian 

When he selected his victim, he waited until a dark night. Under 
the cover of darkness he crept into the village, a donkey foot in each 
hand, and placed hoof prints along all the streets and before every 
house. Then he withdrew and waited until morning. He returned 
with troops, searched out the village elder, and said, "There have 
been donkeys stolen and I am told that some of your people stole 

The village elder assured him that he was wrong, that there were 
no donkeys there. The sergeant, looking down, spied the hoof prints 

Strange Lands and Friendly People 

of donkeys and said, "You re lying. Here are the tracks. Look, they 
are everywhere." And with that the sergeant went around the vil 
lage, followed by his troops, the village elder, and a growing crowd 
of villagers. And everywhere he went he pointed to the hoof prints. 
Finally, he stopped and said to the crowd, "Where are the donkeys?* 

They assured him they had no donkeys. 

"But I have the evidence and the court in Shiraz will convict you." 

The denials of guilt became more and more insistent, the accusa 
tions were emphatic. Finally the sergeant said, "If no one will con 
fess, I ll have to arrest everyone and take you all to Shiraz." Turning 
to his troops he said, **Line them up and start them down the road." 

Shiraz was one hundred miles away- It would take days to reach 
there on foot; weeks would be wasted waiting for trial; it would 
take more days to return. Meanwhile the crops would be lost; there 
would be no one to care for the sheep and goats. The prospect of 
losing their year s production and the wealth of their flocks was ap 
palling. Consequently, the village elder sought a way of settling the 

The discussion was long and heated. The sergeant placed a fine 
on the whole village. There were violent objections. The sergeant 
answered by once more directing the troops to start the villagers 
down the road to Shiraz. The village elder slowly and painfully 
realized that this was blackmail and that he would have to capitulate 
to save his people. The price then became the subject of negotiation. 
It was finally reduced to $15,000. Sheep, goats, wheat, money, 
jewelry were collected and assessed and the sergeant marched off 
with his loot. 

In some villages, he got $20,000, in others $5,000. The donkey 
hoofs became worth more than their weight in gold. The sergeant 
grew in arrogance and wealth as he bled the Ghashghais white. 

Old habits are hard to break and at the lower echelons there is 
still a great incentive to prey on the tribes. Salary of soldiers and 
gendarmes is pitifully poor. A captain of the gendarmes who has 
ten children and relatives to support practically conceded to me 
that he had to steal or exact blackmail. His salary is about fifty 
dollars a month. 

The Ghashghais, alert to these practices, are today able to take 
care of themselves. Almost every man is armed; and their organi- 

"By My Mother s Milk" 141 

zation is highly perfected. Shortly before my visit the Army en 
deavored to bring two hundred Arabs into one Ghashghai district 
for grazing. The villagers protested and refused admission. The 
Army said it would be back in the morning. When they came, they 
were met by one thousand Ghashghais, armed and ready to fight. 
The Army and the Arabs withdrew. 

I heard for days on end stories of the depredations of the Army 
against the tribes and the loot and plunder they had collected 
One afternoon I called on a kalantar. We sat in a long open tent, 
partitioned by carpet hangings. The side part was the anderun 
where the women and children stayed. In our part were beautiful 
rugs and a backdrop of gaily colored carpets against which were 
piled rolls of blankets and rugs for sleeping. We had tea; and then 
the kalantar, an old man with a cracked voice, reviewed the ravages 
of the Army under Reza Shah. He ended the hour or more of dis 
cussion with these words: We can forgive the Army for some of 
these things and live with them in peace. But there is one thing which 
we never can forgive. 

"During the reign of Reza Shah there was a captain stationed here 
who had several thoroughbred puppies. The bitch had died. The 
captain sent soldiers every morning to one of our villages and de 
manded two quarts of mother s milk. Our Ghashghai women were 
forced to submit. Each day dogs drank the milk of our mothers." 
There was a pause as he gathered emphasis for his final words, "That 
we can never forgive." 

The depth of his feeling can be understood only if two things 
are remembered: First. Dogs are unclean to Moslems. Second. The 
Ghashghai not only have the respect for mothers that is universal; 
they also have a tradition and custom that this Army captain dese 
crated. For one of the most sacred oaths a Ghashghai can take is 
"By my mother s milk." 

20. "Trust in God, but Tie Your Camel" 

WHEN THE Ghashghai brothers returned from imprisonment and 
exile in 1942, they had many discussions concerning the rehabili 
tation of the tribes before they finally decided on a course of action. 
Then their first step was to make an inventory of what every family 
had and to ask that each put into a pool a designated fraction of his 
property for distribution to the poor. A family that had one hun 
dred sheep gave one to the pool; if it had five hundred, it gave five, 
and so on. Donkeys were collected the same way: one donkey out 
of every twenty was asked for. And so it went for goats, food, and 
clothes. This was a voluntary, tribal project no force was used; 
everyone co-operated. 

The khans then distributed the pooled property to the poor fami 
lies, arranging that each should have a few donkeys (essential for 
their long migrations) and about one hundred sheep. The tribes 
were rehabilitated overnight; poverty was wiped out; the Ghashghais 
gained new unity and cohesion as a tribe; and their loyalty and 
affection for their khans were cemented anew. This bold political 
program revitalized the Ghashghais; they had always been proud; 
now they were confident as welL 

Today it is unusual to find a Ghashghai family that has less than 
one hundred sheep. Most have many more. The lower economic 
group averages about five hundred sheep. In that part of the world 
there are two kmbings a year. This means at the very least a cash 
income of $2,000 a year (and there is no income tax to pay). 

It is a part of the faith of the Ghashghais that the rifle is the 
brother of Allah. They live up to it in practice. Thus when the 
khans returned from exile there was the problem of getting back 
their property which Reza Shah had confiscated. The Ghashghais 
demanded it; and when their demands were rejected they armed 


"Trust in God, but Tie Your Camel" 

and went forth to battle. They met the Army and in June, 1943, at 
tacked and captured Semirum, a fort. Thereafter the controversy 
was settled peaceably. 

After the khans got back their property they entered upon a vast 
program of land distribution. Some land was distributed free; other 
land was sold with payments extending over a long term of fifteen 
years or more. 

The distribution was extensive. In one summer area over ninety- 
six square miles of farming and grazing lands were distributed 
to forty-seven thousand people. 

Thus the Ghashghais rebuilt political fences after fifteen years 
of exile and reaffirmed their worth as leaders of their people. 

Not all of the Ghashghais are proprietors. Some work for wages. 
Most of the servant class, however, are known as gypsies, i.e., out 
siders who come from other tribes or from the cities. Though the 
servants are in most respects the equals of the families for whom 
they work, and by the standards of that part of the world very well 
taken care of, the daughter of a cook can never marry the son of a 
kalantar. Democracy among the Ghashghais does not extend that 
far. By long custom one marries only in his class. The classes are 
five: khans, kalantars, kadkhodas, ordinary tribesmen, gypsies- or out 

This is a topsy-turvy land when it comes to personal relations. 
On my many trips by car and jeep with the Ghashghais, the chauf 
feur was usually a middle-aged man called Najaf. He was short and 
stocky, and very much a stoic. In all the hours I was in a car with 
him he never spoke more than a few words. And they were usually 
a cryptic "na" (no) or "ball, half (yes, yes). 

Near the end of my visit I spoke to Mohammed Hossein about 
the man, complimenting his care and skill as a driver. And I in 
quired if the khans had difficulty keeping good help of this kind. 
Mohammed Hossein smiled and said, "This man is not a servant. 
He s a wealthy man worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. * 

Why is he your servant? * 

"Because he wants to be." And then he told me that Najaf s father, 
grandfather, and all the other male ancestors so far as memory 
went had been attached to the Ilkhan or one of the lesser khans. 
They were men of property and wealth; but they came to the court 
of the Ilkhan as volunteer gunbearers, guards, or what not. No pay 

21. The Ghashghais on Horseback 

THE GHASHGHAIS have the finest Arabian horses I have seen. They 
are probably unequaled in the world. For centuries the Ghashghais 
have bred them for the hunt. At present they are a bit over fourteen 
hands, larger than the normal Arabian. There are not many geldings 
in the tribes. Stallions, spirited but gentle, are preferred for the hunt, 
since they have more stamina for the long, hard runs. But mares are 
also used in the less strenuous hunts. 

Ghashghai saddles are a bit reminiscent of McCIellan saddles; they 
have a low cantle and no horn, but a front that is slightly raised and 
padded. The usual stirrup is the English type; sometimes triangular 
side plates are used, one corner of which serves as a spur. 

The Ghashghai men, normally tall and rangy, have an odd-looking 
tribal dress. It is a long robe which looks much like a dressing gown 
with a sash around the waist. Over this they wear a leather vest. 
The hat is usually brown felt with turned-up flaps, front and back. 

The tribe of the Ghashghais most famous for its horses is the 
Darashori. Its head is Ziad Khan, a short, slight, middle-aged man, 
who loves horses as a man loves his sons. He also loves to ride them; 
and Ziad Khan is one of the best riders and hunters and one of the 
best shots on horseback of any of the Ghashghais. To be rated with 
the Ghashghais let alone to be placed at their head is high praise. 

Ziad Khan constantly brings new Arab blood to his stables from 
Khuzistan. The Arab blood most desired is the Khersan. Stallions in 
his string will sell anywhere from $2,500 up. And Ziad Khan in 
1950 could produce on twenty-four hours notice twenty thousand 
cavalrymen, mounted and armed, with provisions and ammunition 
for thirty days. 

The tails of the horses are cut when they are six months old and 
again when they are a year and a half. This makes them fluffy and 
frill. The effect is striking when the tail is arched. Petals of a species 


Strange Lands and Friendly People 

of mallow, rubbed on the tails, give them luster and are said to 
promote their growth. 

The horses are first ridden when they are a year old. This re 
quires no breaking of the horse, as we use the term, for they never 
buck or rear. They are as gentle as household pets when they are 
colts; indeed, they are pets from the time they first walk. I was in 
a long, open Ghashghai tent having tea, when a young colt came in 
and nuzzled me looking for sugar. He kept coining back as a dog 
might, friendly and intimate, a regular member of the family. 

The first riding of the horse is at a walk, no trotting or running. 
This is done only occasionally, just enough to get the animal used 
to the feel of a saddle, bridle, and rider. When the horse is two and a 
half years old he is given a wider experience. This is when he is 
broken to fire, music, and gunpowder. 

He is led around bonfires at night until he no longer jumps or 
shies at the noise, the flame, or the heat. He is then exposed to 
Ghashghai orchestras of drum and horn (oboe) that play for the 
dances. Finally he is exposed to fire and to music, because the Ghash- 
ghais wedding dances are at night around bonfires. 

He is led near a firing range. When he no longer is startled at the 
noise, he is brought closer. In a few days his trainer is shooting a 
gun next to him; then there is shooting across the saddle and finally 
from the saddle. Any horse goes wild when a gun is shot off right 
over his ears, as many a hunter has learned. Ghashghai horses are 
broken to fire with studious regard for their sensitivity. 

In a week a stallion is broken to fire, music, and gunfire. Then 
he is ready for a full measure of tribal life. When a stallion is used 
for riding and for the hunt, he is not put at stud. His days at stud 
come after his hunting days are over when he is eight or nine years 
old. Ghashghais have the theory that a stallion at stud loses the keen 
edge necessary for the hunt. 

These horses are wiry and tough. There are no barns or stables to 
shelter them. Most of the time they stand tethered by a halter and 
by the rear feet. They receive generous portions of barley; and 
they are exercised every day. 

When I hunted with the Ghashghais, I learned what magnificent 
animals the Arabian stallions are. They have an instinct for the hunt 
that is keen and sharp. AH that needs be done is to point them to the 
game and they hold to the prey as a greyhound does to a rabbit. 

The Ghashghais on Horseback 

They and the Ghashghais make the most skillful hunting combina 
tion I have ever known. 

One day Malek Mansour and I headed across the Namdan Plain. 
I was riding Mohammed Hossein s white stallion; Malek Mansour, 
his own bay. About eighty mounted Ghashghais were on our flanks 
and in our rear. Each had a rifle and a shotgun, one of which was 
carried by a bearer. We were headed for an ibex hunt. 

Namdan Plain is almost as flat as a floor and extends two hundred 
miles northwest and southeast. It is around fifteen miles wide. The 
plain lies about six thousand feet high, which makes the ridges that 
cover its flanks eight thousand feet or better; and the mountains that 
lie behind the ridge on the west rise to fifteen thousand feet. The 
hills have no trees in the vivid sense of the word, but there are wild 
peach trees shrubs from two to eight feet tall and other coarse 
shrubs of camel thorns and thistles. But by late summer these moun 
tains look naked to the eye. 

The plain itself is covered by grass that is stirrup high in the 
spring. There will be miles and miles of wild iris and hollyhock in 
bloom. In the spring a meandering stream flows through the plain; 
by fall this stream is a winding, dark streak of marshland. Dogear 
rushes, twelve feet tall, grow in it. It is a favorite haunt of the wild 

The ibexes are in the hills above Namdan Plain and they were our 
hunt that day. As we rode, Malek Mansour spotted a hawk traversing 
our course about a half mile ahead. He took a shotgun from the 
bearer, pointed his stallion toward the hawk, and leaned forward in 
the saddle. The stallion ran like the wind. Though the hawk changed 
its course, the stallion kept in pursuit and came under the hawk. 
The stallion was still on a hard, fast run when Malek Mansour 
dropped the reins, stood slightly in the stirrups, and brought the 
hawk down with one shot. That afternoon other Ghashghais per 
formed similar feats, chasing hawks, vultures, and low-flying ducks 
on horseback and shooting from the saddle on the dead run. They 
must on the kw of averages sometimes fail to get their bird; but 
this afternoon they seldom missed; and the most shots anyone took 
were two. 

We did not get our ibex that day. They are found above the plain 
in ravines, rocky gorges, and open slopes of the high mountains. 
Careful planning is required to drive these fleet animals so that they 

148 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

come in range. Several converging parties worked one huge valley 
and mountain; but the ibex raced up a cliff rather than around it 
and got away. 

I had ridden the white stallion on a hunt in the valley. Never had 
I been on a faster steed. When he ran it was as if he had his belly to 
the ground. His feet sounded like machine-gun fire. He went with 
the wind and as freely. There was joy and abandon in the run an 
all-out, enthusiastic burst of energy. The run had a beautiful rhythm; 
horse and rider became one; it was a wild, exultant co-operative 
project. The pounding of the hoofs, the feel of the wind, the 
tenseness of the pace, the thrill of the chase make going at thirty- 
five miles an hour aboard a stallion an exquisite experience. But to 
the uninitiated the run of a Ghashghai horse through broken coun 
try is on the startling side. Those horses take brush, rocks, gullies 
as if they did not exist. There is no break in the stride, no change 
of pace. Uphill and down they go as if propelled by Satan. Then 
it is that one knows why stallions are preferred for the hunt. Mares 
cannot endure the grueling speed. Once in a while these hard- 
running stallions have an accident, but injuries are rare. These fleet 
animals with tiny feet and strong shoulders can go almost anywhere 
on a dead run. Only marshland breaks the beautiful rhythm of their 
pounding pace. 

I took movies of one gazelle hunt. Advance parties sent out by 
the Ghashghais turned a mass of gazelles from the mountains onto 
Namdan Plain. There were several thousand of them in one herd, 
racing over thirty miles an hour. Through the glasses they looked 
like waves of a vast sea that filled the basin in a mirage. Their backs 
rose and fell in perfect symmetry as the great mass raced across the 

Seme were finally cut from the herd and my group went into 
action. Few of our western horses would ever get within range of 
a gazelle. This member of the antelope f amily, with short, straight, 
pointed horns and tiny legs, weighs about forty pounds, is hardly 
higher than a big shepherd dog, and can do fifty miles an hour. I 
have clocked them at that speed on the Namdan Plain. No horse 
ever born can run that fast. Some therefore resort to the criminal 
practice of hunting gazelles in a jeep. Ghashghais strenuously object 
to that practice and make life miserable for any jeep hunter who 
cetera their domain. They get their gazelles by cutting* out a few 

The Ghashghais on Horseback 

from a herd, coming in on them from an angle, and shooting from 
the saddle on the dead run. This afternoon the fifteen in my party 
got forty gazelles; and every one was the result of magnificent rid 
ing and shooting. They were all saddle shots, where the hunter has 
to know the rhythm of the horse, the arc his gun is traveling, and 
the split second when he s on the target. That s hard enough with 
a moving target when the hunter is stationary. It s an exacting skill 
beyond most hunters when both target and hunter are on the run. 

When I was in the Bakhtiari country I had seen a nice exhibition of 
shooting on a gallop. I had in fact put up prizes for a contest. Bahman 
Khan was judge. He laid out a course about two hundred yards long 
and ran horsemen by a stationary target about fifty yards distant. 
It was good shooting; but Ghashghai shooting was even better. The 
Bakhtiari have been disarmed so long they are out of practice. Once 
they were equals of the Ghashghais, and Bahman of the Bakhtiari 
today can ride and shoot with any of the Ghashghais. But the 
average Ghashghai is now far ahead of any tribesman not only in 
Persia but in the whole Middle East. 

I gave prizes for a Ghashghai shooting contest. Malek Mansour 
arranged it. A bush on a side hill was the target. The contestants 
rode by it at a distance of fifty yards, shooting from five different 
positions on their three-hundred-yard course once as they started, 
once at the quarter, once when directly opposite, once at the three- 
quarter position, and once at the end. These were hard fast runs, 
the riders never once touching the reins. The last two shots were 
made going away from the target, the rider shooting over the tail of 
the horse. 

Over twenty entered the contest. Not one shot from the entire 
group went astray. There were misses; but every shot either hit 
or rimmed the target. Ziad Khan, famous horse breeder, won the 
contest against two sharp, clean-cut youngsters in their teens. Ziad 
put five bullets in the center of the bush on the run down; then 
he turned the horse, came back on a dead run, shifted his rifle to 
his left shoulder and put five more bullets in the bush. Others fol 
lowed suit and many had records almost as good. 

I had never seen such shooting, even by circus experts. The skill 
of these Ghashghais made the rewards seem woefully inadequate: all 
I could contribute as prizes were a carton of American cigarettes, 
a pair of sun glasses, a jackknife, a whetstone, and a key ring. To 

/ jo Strange Lands and Friendly People 

my surprise Malek Mansour made the key ring the first prize and 
gave the rest in reverse of the order I had listed them. 

I thought that exhibition was the most superb shooting I had ever 
seen, but I was to see more. Returning to camp one afternoon with 
Malek Mansour and a host of Ghashghai hunters, I galloped ahead 
to get a picture of the group coming across Namdan Plain. They, 
however, stopped a quarter mile away and sent a rider after me, 
who came with a clatter shouting "Gros, gros" Before I could 
translate his message Malek Mansour and the rest of us were off on 
a hard fast run across the plain in pursuit of a wild boar who had 
broken out of the marshland and headed across the basin. The boar 
had a two-mile start and was loping at full speed. We had to cross 
the marsh and so for a few moments were slowed to a walk. When 
we finally negotiated it, Malek Mansour had a long lead and was 
going like the wind. In five minutes or so he got within two hundred 
yards of the boar, stood in his saddle, and fired. The bullet hit the 
boar in the right shoulder. The animal s front legs collapsed mo 
mentarily; but he was up in a jiffy and on his way. 

Now Malek Mansour had a dangerous venture on his hands. A 
wounded boar has no equal in ferocity. To chase a wounded boar 
on horseback is suicidal, for a boar in full flight can turn faster than 
a horse can turn; when he does, he comes up under the horse, rip 
ping him with the tusks and killing him and probably the rider 
too. So Malek Mansour pulled out about fifty yards and ran parallel 
with die boar. In a few minutes he was abreast of the animal. 

This was the tense and telling moment of the hunt. The boar now 
turned and charged the horse. A wounded boar on a short charge 
goes much faster than even an Arabian horse can run. If this stallion 
bolted and ran, the boar would be under him in a matter of seconds, 
ripping open his belly. This was the crucial test for the rider as 
well, for he had only one shot before the boar would be under the 
horse. The Arabian stallion never wavered though death would 
reach him in seconds. He went pounding across the plain, holding 
his course as though he were a guided missile. Malek Mansour had 
dropped his reins and was now low in the saddle, leaning sideways. 
He waited until the boar was seventy-five feet away and then 
dropped him with one bullet between the eyes. 

I never have been able to decide who was more of a champion 
Malefc Mansour or the bay stallion with the arched tail 

22. The Ghashghais on the Move 

THE GHASHGHAIS probably number around 500,000 people, a half 
of whom migrate. In the summer they are in territory south of, and 
contiguous to, the Bakhtiari. Their summer quarters head up in 
the Kuh-i-Dina range of the Zagros Mountains, dominated by a 
peak fifteen thousand feet high. Here they have grazing land and 
farmland. There is much dry fanning and some irrigation. Ghash- 
ghai rent is on shares; and it usually is five parts for the fanner and 
one part for the landlord. Wheat and barley are grown in great 
quantities. There are many vegetables produced; and some of the 
tribes raise poppies for opium. The agricultural industry also in 
cludes exploitations of the thorny tragacanth bush from which the 
famous gum is obtained. Tapping the roots of this bush is a large 
part of the summer industry of the tribes. The Ghashghais market 
tons of this gum every year. Ghashghai women are expert weavers. 
They produce rugs, carpets, blankets, feed bags, and rope that find 
their way into bazaars and constitute a source of substantial income 
for the tribes. 

By and large the Ghashghais still use primitive methods in farm 
ing. Some tractors have been introduced; but they are new. The 
khans are enterprising, inquisitive, and progressive. They have 
brought from America many species of oranges, lemons, grape 
fruit, and other citrus and developed large orchards. There 
are wild peaches in the mountains, as I have said, and farther south 
one sees wild almond and wild pistachio trees. Like the wild peach 
they are coarse shrubs five to eight feet high. They make exceUent 
browse. The khans have been experimenting with them, planting 
strips of them both as a soil erosion measure and as browse belts. 
The Ghashghais do not know why these plants are good for stock; 
but they know that stock which feeds on them is always healthy. 

Strange Lands and Friendly People 

(The Persian government has also started an afforestation prograr 
It planted two million trees in March, 1951.) 

The khans are interested in scientific agriculture. Nasser Khan 
son at present is in California s agricultural school. Time seems t 
stand still with some of the tribes, as I have indicated. And so f; 
as schools, doctors, hospitals, and general modernity are concerne 
the average Ghashghai is where his ancestors were a hundred yeaj 
ago. Not so with the khans. Their khans are trying to keep abreaj 
of the times; soil erosion, crop rotation, pest control, new types c 
plants are engaging their interest. Yet in spite of their emphasis o 
science in developing the economy of the tribes, tribal life keep 
pretty much the pace it had centuries ago. 

The tribes move north in the spring and south in the fall. Thei 
migrations are the longest of any Persian tribe, extending in som 
cases 350 miles. The people start down from the high mountains i 
September and take a month or six weeks to reach winter quarters 
They pour down many valleys, following ancient migration routes 
These routes converge at Guyum, about twenty miles northwest o 
Shiraz and thus, as Reza Shah knew, become very vulnerable to anj 
power that would want to interfere with the migration. Fron 
Guyum the tribes fan out some west to Behbehan, some south t< 
Dashtistan, some southeast to the loop of the Mand River on th< 
border of Laristan. Here they stay until April when they start theii 
northward trek. 

I was with the Ghashghais on one fall migration. It is as color 
ful a sight as one can hope to see. The first and superficial impres 
sion is that of a pack outfit moving through our western mountains, 
But it is not as carefree as such an expedition. These migrations in 
volve moving the entire family and all its worldly possessions, 
Everything that is needed is transported on foot twice a year three 
hundred miles or more. The old folks and the babies ride. Tents, 
cooking utensils, looms, poles, fuel, blankets all the belongings are 
loaded on donkeys and camels. Chickens are tied on top of donkeys. 
Gay colored blankets and saddlebags make the camels look as if 
they were on dress parade. 

The families move early on the march. They stretch out as far 
as the eye can see; great clouds of dust hang over the procession and 
mark its course. 

Dozens of dogs keep up front or scour the flanks for rabbits or 

The Ghashghais on the Move 

fox. They are mangy, nondescript animals ugly to look at but 
heroic. They guard the flocks, fight in packs against wolves, and 
often give their lives in gallant battle. 

One sees mostly women and children on these marches. They 
walk in front of the camels or follow behind the donkeys, beating 
them with sticks and shouting hoarse commands. The men are 
largely missing. The reason is that the main procession follows the 
valleys, while the flocks must seek higher ground. The Ghashghais 
have at least seven million sheep, which must eat as they move the 
three hundred miles or more. Feed for that quantity of grazing 
cannot be found in the thoroughfares; thus the flocks spread out 
along the ridges on both flanks of the main procession. There are 
appointed camping places; and here the families usually reunite at 
evening. Then the flocks must be milked, cheese and butter made, 
and mast prepared. 

This is a gigantic project, run pretty much on clockwork, and ef 
ficiently managed. 

But the migration is not only of people and their possessions. The 
migration is well-nigh universal Almost all the animals migrate with 
the Ghashghais. 

There are ibexes and mountain sheep in the hills. They too move 
south with the tribes. So do the gazelles. So do the foxes. 

The predators follow suit wolves, leopards, and jackals. They 
slink through canyons by day and walk the ridges at night, follow 
ing their prey* 

Thousands of birds move south, even the hawks and vultures. 
For me the most thrilling sight of all is the migration of the partridge. 
These buff-colored birds move by the thousands under some myste 
rious command. They walk in mass formation several thousand in 
one group headed south. They hold their heads high, and as they 
march along they talk with each other just as the Ghashghais do. 

Men and animals alike seem to receive from nature the same sig 
nal. They start south together. They move as a group to the land 
where the days are warm, the nights are cool, the grass is high, and 
other food is plentiful. 

Only the wild boar stays behind. 

23. Its an Old Ghashghai Custom 

MULLAH NASR-ED-DIN, the legendary Persian humorist, had served 
the Shah long and faithfully. When at long last he got an audience, 
he asked His Majesty for a favor. He wanted a royal commission, 
authorizing him to go about the realm interviewing the people and 
collecting one hen s egg from each man who feared his wife. The 
Shah, to humor Mullah, wrote out the commission and Mullah went 
his way. 

Mullah traveled the length and breadth of Persia (which in those 
days was several times its present size). Everywhere he went the eggs 
rolled in. He traded eggs for flocks of sheep and goats; he traded 
eggs for Arabian stallions and mares; he filled the markets with 
eggs and with the money built a summer castle for himself high in 
the Zagros Range and a winter palace in Shiraz; he sold eggs and 
purchased plants and shrubs from all over the world and built him 
self beautiful gardens. Mullah was rich; he had dozens of servants, 
wonderful baths, luxurious food, and a good-looking harem. 

Finally he finished his tour of Persia and sought an audience with 
the Shah to give him an accounting. He reported at length of his 
journeys and his achievements. When he finished the Shah said, 
"Mullah, I am ashamed of you. You have got rich from the royal 
commission I gave you and you have not even brought me a present." 
Mullah, raising his voice, replied, "Your Majesty, I am most grate 
ful to you for your great favor. As I went about the country I kept 
thinking of you." 

"Yes, I know," said the Shah, "but you didn t bring me a present." 
"Yes, I did, Your Majesty," replied Mullah. And then in a voice 
that cofuld be heard throughout the castle, Mullah added, "I brought 
you a beautiful, young Turkish girl" 
"Sh-h-h-h," whispered the Shah, putting his finger to his lips. 

Its an Old Ghashghai Custom 155 

cc This Turkish girl is the loveliest you have ever seen," Mullah 

"Sh-h-h-h," the Shah once more admonished. 

"She has beautiful eyes, silken hair, a shapely figure," Mullah 

"Not so loud, not so loud," whispered the Shah. "My wife is in 
the next room." 

Mullah rose, bowed graciously, held out his hand and said, "Your 
Majesty, now you too owe me an egg." 

Nowhere is this story more greatly appreciated than in Ghashghsd 
country. And nowhere in the Moslem world do women have a 
stronger, more authoritative position in family and tribal life than 
among the Ghashghais. 

Like other tribal women in Persia, they go unveiled. Like them 
they do most of the manual work of the camp and of the migrations; 
they also work in the fields, harvesting wheat or barley with hand 
sickles. But these women, many of whom are strikingly beautiful, 
look one in the eye, confident and self-possessed. And as they do so 
they scan the intruder with a searching look as if to say, "You can t 
possibly be as brave, and strong, and versatile as our men." They are, 
in other words, proud and independent. 

In one respect, however, Ghashghai women are inferior to other 
tribal women. The other tribes usually have kws of inheritance that 
leave one part of the father s property to a daughter and two parts 
to a son. Under Ghashghai law the sons take all, the daughters 
nothing. Daughters, however, are under the protection of their 
brothers until they marry, and on marriage receive a dowry. 

There is a very superior and dominant woman behind the man 
agement of the Ghashghais. She is Khadejeh Bibi, mother of the 
four khans. She has wisdom and power and wields it wisely. But the 
reasons for the unique position of Ghashghai women in the Moslem 
world strike deeper. The Moslem religion permits divorce; but the 
Ghashghais do not. If a man undertakes to divorce his wife, her 
family takes matters in their hands. They may kill the husband with 
impunity, for his act is an insult to their house. 

Ghashghais for all practical purposes are monogamous* Marriage 
to more than one woman is rare. It can happen and sometimes does. 
If a couple, though married for five or six years, have no children, 
a second marriage may be arranged. But it is managed by the kalan- 

Strange Lands and Friendly People 

tars or khans and is done only with the consent of the wife. If a 
second wife is taken, she takes an inferior position in the home. The 
first wife remains in full control of the home, including the dis 
cipline of the children. 

Ghashghai children incidentally are not whipped or beaten. They 
are punished by being denied what they want most participation 
in a wedding dance, horseback riding, or a hunting party. 

The boys are raised in the women s quarters until they are seven. 
Then they are circumcised in a public ceremony by a tribal barber 
who uses a razor and slit bamboo. A unique hemostatic dressing is 
used the ashes of a cremated rabbit. When the boy is a son or 
relative of a khan or kalantar, the circumcision is the occasion for 
feasting by the whole tribe. 

Ghashghai courts are close to the people. The Ghashghais, like 
the Bakhtiari, though Shiah Mohammedans, have no mullahs in 
the tribes. The khans adjudicate all the disputes. Ghashghai law is 
well developed. Years ago the khans had it reduced to writing, 
and it is now contained in several volumes, covering all phases of 
tribal and personal relations. It has some interesting variations from 
other tribal law. For example, if it is publicly known that a young 
couple is guilty of fornication, which is forbidden, both may be 
killed by a relative. If only the families know, a marriage will be 

In case of rape the whole tribe takes up the chase. The man is an 
outlaw and when captured is killed at once. 

Feuding is a point of honor. If a man is killed in a quarrel, it is 
the duty of his family to hunt out the killer and kill him. Once 
revenge is had, the khan steps in. He goes to the home of the last 
man killed and asks the family to forgive their enemy. A khan by 
tradition commands rather than requests; so when he asks a favor, 
his desire is always respected. 

The khans serve as priests and father confessors to their people. 
They have a paternal relation to the lowliest of them. A goatherd 
may have a grievance against someone who took his goat; if he 
feels he was not accorded justice by the kalantar, he complains to the 
khan. The khan sends a trusted employee to investigate. If the em 
ployee does not make a fair report, he is punished. The goatherd, 
dissatisfied with the report, appeals to the khan. The khan sends 
word tint he will come in person. It may be a 50 or ioo-mile 

If s an Old Ghashghai Custom 

ride; but he goes. He holds court and hears both sides. If he rules 
for the goatherd, he will order the return of the goat and fine the 
offender. He then gives the goatherd a letter saying that he has won 
and that no one should ever touch his goats. A goatherd armed with 
such a letter has great prestige. No kalantar will dare touch him. He 
carries in his pocket the key to immunity from all raiding. 

The goatherd cannot sit before a khan; he must stand. A kalantar 
on the other hand may sit. But goatherd and kalantar have equal 
status before the law. 

Even in so personal an affair as marriage the khans play an im 
portant role in the lives of their people. When a Ghashghai couple 
decides to get married, they ask the khan s blessing, and take him 
a kid or an ibex as a gift. It is a symbol of good luck for them to 
accept something in return from the khan. The khan s wife or 
sister will make an article of clothing for the bride; the khan will 
give the groom a horse, gun or sheep depending on the groom s 
interests or needs. The khan becomes the "spiritual godfather of 
all the children of the marriage." He may give his blessing to the 
marriage even though the families of the young people oppose it. 
In that case the khan takes it on himself to work out a reconcilia 
tion. It may require years; but his ingenuity and diplomacy are tire 
less in devising ways and means of bringing ultimate approval from 
the parents. 

The wedding festivities last three days or more, and are enlivened 
by a variety of night dances. (Dances of the Ghashghais are com 
monly held at night, against a backdrop of a huge fire built in a 
rock cairn. In this custom, one recognizes the trace of Zoroaster s 
philosophy and teachings. It is revealed again in a Ghashghai oath: 
"By bread and salt" or "By the fireplace" the equivalent of our 
"Cross my heart and hope to die.") 

In one of the wedding dances, women and girls dressed in bril 
liant colors dance clockwise around a fire. Then the men put on 
the stick dance. I first saw this dance in Bakhtiari country. The men 
at Oregon performed it, and ended by making Lowell Thomas, Jr. 
and me participants. One man holds before him a heavy wooden 
staff five to six feet long, resting one end on the ground. He 
keeps it stationary and tries to use it as a shield against the attacks 
of the other participant. The latter has a willow stick. His aim is 
to whack the defender across the ankles or calves. There is much 

Strange Lands and Friendly People 

weaving and jumping, while feints and false passes are made. The 
attacker has only one blow. Then the dancers change positions, 
walking and strutting around the ring until the holder of the staff 
places it in front of him and gets ready for the attack. This is all 
done to music; and often the crowd keeps time by clapping. There 
is great competition for the places at the end of each dance. There 
are many casualties; a smart blow on the calves has sometimes put 
a good man to bed. 

Dancing during wedding festivals continues from dusk until n 
P.M. or so. Then the father of the groom tenders a dinner to all the 
assembled guests. On the last day the bride arrives, mounted on a 
white horse which she has ridden three times around her camp be 
fore departing.. She has a young boy seated behind her an omen 
that her first child will be a son. 

Among the Ghashghais, to come across an unexpected wedding 
when one is traveling is an omen of good luck. One s trip will be 
pleasant; his hunt successful. Another sign of good luck is having 
water unexpectedly or accidentally spilled on one. (That happened 
to me late one afternoon just before I went to wedding festivities 
at the camp of a kalantar; and at the dinner which followed I ate 
some mountain goat which made me ill for six days.) 

On the other hand, a sneeze is a warning. If a group is planning 
a trip (say for hunting) and one of them sneezes before they start, 
they give each other knowing looks and wait. They will wait per 
haps a half hour; or if anyone has any particular feeling about it, 
they may wait a whole day. 

When I went to visit the Ghashghais, I passed through the village 
of Kaftar where Ghashghai families live the year around. A group 
of men were on the edge of the village with a sheep which they 
sacrificed before I could stop them. Behind them were a group of 
thirty or forty women. When I dismounted and walked up to the 
village elders, the women gave their greeting. It was a shrill cry a 
sharp, piercing trill made with the tongue alone, not by moving the 
hand against the lips. The trilling resounded again and again. It is 
the way Ghashghai women extend a formal welcome. 

I had experienced this type of welcome in the Bakhtkri country. 
On my first afternoon at Oregon I had gone for a horseback ride. 
Coming back we skirted the village. Group after group of women 

It s an Old Ghashghai Custom 

had assembled and gave this piercing cry. One woman would say, 
"Happiness be with you," and the others would respond by trilling. 

This trilling usually is not a short cry like a whistle, but more 
like a melodious chant. It rises and falls and fades away; then it re 
turns with a great crescendo. It is stardingly beautiful. 

It is used by the Ghashghai women when their men go into battle. 
In case of war the women go with the men as caretakers of the 
camps. When the Ghashghais charge, the last they hear is the shrill 
trilling of their womenfolk. I asked about the custom and the reason 
for it. 

Malek Mansour replied, When we hear that cry, we know we 
must win. If we fail, the enemy will have our women. That s why 
the Ghashghais seldom fail." 

Rumblings in the Arab World 

THE ARAB world embraces Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Trans- Jordan, 
Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. All of it is ancient and historic land, though 
some of the nations are new. 

Until recently Lebanon and Syria were one. Beginning in AJX 1516 
they were under the rule of Turkey for almost four hundred years. 
By the turn of this century Arab nationalism was growing in in 
tensity, and during World War I plans were laid for an independent 
Arab state of Syria. Those plans were subverted; international poli 
tics called the play; and Syria and Lebanon ended up in 1920 under 
a French mandate. They remained under the French mandate until 
1941. On September 26, 1941, the Free French granted Syria inde 
pendent status and on November 26, 1941, they did the same for 
Lebanon. It was not until November 22, 1943, that full independence 
was achieved, after small uprisings in Damascus and Beirut follow 
ing the attempt of the French to impose conditions. 

Iraq was formed after World War I when pieces of the Ottoman 
Empire were being reshuffled. Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra, three 
Ottoman provinces, were united to form Iraq. 

Trans- Jordan was also an Ottoman province until World War I. 
The British at that time conquered it; in 1920 England separated it 
from the Palestine mandate and in 1921 put it under the rule of a 
king. It remained a British mandate until March 22, 1946, when 
England finally recognized its independence. 

This is also the land of the invader. The part I traveled had been 
subdued in whole or in part by the Egyptians, Assyrians, Hittites, 
Persians, and Greeks. Then came the Romans. In the seventh century 
the Moslems took over. In the eleventh century came the Crusaders 


1 62 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

who conquered the coastline and for a century or more mainta 
a series of feudal states Edessa, Antioch, Tripoli, and Jerusa 
Saladin defeated the Crusaders at the end of the twelfth cent 
The Mongols invaded in the thirteenth. The Mamelukes of Ej 
drove out the Mongols and ruled until 1516, when the Otto 
Turks conquered it. The heavy and corrupt hand of the Turk 
on the land until World War I. 

These are the four Arab countries I traveled in my joum 
partly by foot, mostly by car. Some stretches of desert and 
upper reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates I explored by air. 

Lebanon lies on the eastern shoreline of the Mediterranean, 
north of Israel. This is the famous Phoenician coast, a long, nar 
domain. At points the mountains meet the sea. At other places tl 
are wide valleys and gentle slopes running to the ocean. Monaste 
and convents look down on the littoral from high ridges. Dome 
mosques and spires of churches dot the coast. 

The air along these shores is warm and humid in the gro^ 
months. Sugar cane and bananas flourish. Olive orchards and v 
yards creep up the low spurs of the Lebanons. 

Here the Phoenicians made merchant ships and established c< 
merce with the world. It was down this coast that the First Crus 
came overland from Europe. It conquered some of the walled tor 
that stood in its way, swept around others, and poured on to J( 
salem. It was the last Crusade to get through by land. Later c 
tried but failed. The only other Crusades that reached these sh< 
poured in by sea. 

At the time of the Crusades the Arab civilization was in m 
respects further advanced than that of the West. In the tenth c 
tury the Arabs had a rural health clinic operating out of Baghc 
They introduced die hospital and traveling clinics. Rhazes, a I 
sian by birth and leader in the Arab medical world, was like O 
in our own. The Arabs led in astronomy, philosophy, mathemat 
chemistry. These influenced Europe mightily. So did the comj 
which the Crusaders brought back from the Middle East. From 
Arabs the Crusaders learned of carrier pigeons, gunpowder, chival 
From them they also got damask, satin, and muslin, as well as vari 
new plants, fruits, spices and perhaps most important of all, suj 
the Arabic sukhar. 

Rumblings m the Arab World 

Castles of the Crusaders dominate strategic military and commer 
cial points of the coastline. High-arched Roman bridges of stone 
which still look sturdy mark the course of ancient passages over 
gulches or streams. At Dog River are plaques and carvings going 
back to Nebuchadnezzar and showing the records of victories of 
every conqueror who came this way. 

Along the ocean are remnants of square, stone blockhouses of an 
cient age. These were fire houses, placed a few miles apart from 
Palestine to Constantinople. Queen Helena, who was excavating in 
Jerusalem, had them erected. If she found the true Cross, fires were 
to be built on these towers. The keeper of the first tower got the 
good news and lit his fire. The next one down the coast saw the 
fire and lit his; then the third, and so on. Thus the message was re 
layed, fire tower by fire tower, from Palestine to Constantinople in 
but a few hours. 

Friezes, cornices, pillars, relics of statuary, huge stone blocks are 
scattered here and there, pieces of cities and sanctuaries long buried. 
Reminders of the death of mighty civilizations are on all sides. Here 
glory and power died; new forces consumed the old and were in 
turn destroyed. One walks among ruins that mark the savagery of 
man to man; ruins that are visible evidence of the unlimited lengths 
to which man has gone throughout history for power and wealth. 

Yet from this coast there also came the creed of Him who taught 
brotherhood and love. 

This coast has other contrasts. While age and antiquity have 
heavily marked it, so have modernity. A refinery, fed by a pipeline 
that taps the oil of the interior, stands at Tripoli. A railway that 
connects Constantinople with Cairo runs along the coast. Huge shal 
low concrete basins dot the shore. They are settling pans. Salt water 
is pumped to them; salt is deposited by evaporation. And auto 
mobiles (mostly American) roar down the hard-surfaced highway, 
dodging burros and caravans of camels loaded with produce. 

Lebanon is divided into two parts. The Lebanon Mountains rise 
from the ocean and at their highest point reach around ten thousand 
feet. East of this range is a great fertile valley called the Boqaa, which 
at points is twenty-five miles or more wide. It is a long valley, head 
ing in Syria to the north and emptying into Palestine. 

The Boqaa is an intermountain valley, for it is bounded on the east 

164 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

by the Anti-Lebanon Mountains the range that ends on the south 
In Mount Hermon of Biblical fame, the one called "Lebanon toward 
the sunrising" in the Bible (Joshua 13:5). 

The east side of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains flattens out into a 
vast desertic steppe. Damascus (capital of Syria) lies at the bottom 
of this range and on the edge of the desert. Damascus is an oasis. 
Beyond it to the east is a vast, empty land that runs five hundred 
miles or more to Baghdad and Babylon. Baghdad, robbed of its an 
cient splendor and as drab as the poverty of its people, sits at the 
bottom of the V formed by the confluence of the Tigris and Eu 
phrates. These rivers, filled with silt and filth, flow sluggishly to 
the Persian Gulf. To the north of Baghdad is the mountainous coun 
try of ancient Kurdistan. It has alpine climate; but Baghdad is hot; 
and Basra, south of it on the Gulf, is one of the hottest places on the 
earth. The 120 degrees which I found oppressive in Baghdad is the 
temperature the date growers at Basra pray for in August so that the 
dates may ripen. 

This part of the world has virtually no rain during the summer 
months. Its rains are distilled over the Atlantic Ocean and come in 
the winter with the strong west wind, providing around ten inches 
of rainfall a year. In the summer those winds are parched and they 
whip up tremendous sand storms. One day, when we were coming 
to Baghdad from Tehran by plane, we were swallowed by a dust 
storm several hundred miles wide, five hundred miles long, and eight 
thousand feet deep. The dust was as thick as fog and blotted from 
view the tips of the wings of the plane. The airport at Baghdad was 
closed, so we made an emergency landing In the desert at Habbaniya, 
east of Baghdad. This is a base built by the British an oasis that is 
a vivid reminder of how glorious a garden Mesopotamia once was, 
and an impressive example of how rich and green the valleys of 
Iraq could be. When at last we landed at Baghdad, the ceiling was 
only one hundred feet. The dust storm was so great that Baghdad 
was practically in darkness by midafternoon. We found the airport 
by skimming the ground and following a highway. The curses of 
camel drivers were on us for doing it. The low-flying plane caused 
panic among camel caravans. Under the roar of our motors camels 
broke ranks and ropes and dashed madly across the desert. 

There is rich color in this land. But It is color which, since the 
seventh century, could not be painted. Mohammed had a prohibition 

Rumblings in the Arab World 165 

against the making of graven images. Decorative art flourished in 
the Islam world but not painting of people and scenery. Under the 
Turkish rule it was a misdemeanor to paint. Only since Lebanon 
obtained her independence has art flourished. Only since that date 
have Saliba Doueihy and other Arab artists been allowed to show 
their talents. 

The limestone of the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon Mountains has as 
many different hues as the moods of a summer day. There are 
patches left of the majestic cedars of Lebanon, clinging to high, 
steep pockets of limestone, adding dark green to a background of 
mauve. There are wind-blown peaks and deep gorges. On the eastern 
side of the mountains there are sunsets that rival Arizona s. The 
stars at night have a glory that we of the West do not know. 
They hang low and shine with a candle power of great brilliance. 
A cool wind usually sweeps the desert at night, whining through 
harsh gullies and making the coarse camel thorn hum. The days 
which are free of dust storms have a brilliance that is almost 
blinding. The infinity, which we see in the azure blue of the 
sky the world around, seems less remote in this parched knd. There 
is austerity in every view rocks, gullies, dry plains, bristling 
thistles. From the desert side the Lebanons and Anti-Lebanons seem 
almost a mirage. The universe presses in on every living soul; it is 
a weary land where man finds no escape from a relentless, burning 
sun. It is hard to find escape from poverty too. Perhaps there is psy 
chological significance in these physical phenomena. It was in this 
region that some of the great religions of the world were born. 

24. Ks a Small World 

WHEN i FIRST saw the Middle East it seemed strange and mysterious. 

My son Bill and I had come to Lebanon by way of Athens. When 
we flew to Athens from Rome, I felt strangely alone in a faraway 
foreign place. Then in the brilliant light of early morning I had seen 
the Acropolis, the marble pillars atop it fairly glistening. Its most 
imposing edifice, the Parthenon, stirred nostalgic feelings in me. 
That building had served as the model for our own Supreme Court 
building. The sight of it gave me an intimate and friendly tie with 
a strange land. 

Later, as I gave the Acropolis a farewell look on our flight out of 
Athens to Beirut, I had an empty feeling. Most connections with 
the past would now be broken. The land for which we were headed, 
its people, their culture and customs would all be strange and new. 
And I was to discover that in large part it was indeed as strange and 
foreign to Americans as it had been to the Crusaders who in 1095 
answered die call to march against the infidel. 

We landed briefly at Rhodes, where dozens of windmills with 
white cotton wings were feverishly pumping water in a green val 
ley. Then came Cyprus of legendary fame. In less than an hour out 
of Nicosia (its capital) the shoreline of Asia had loomed up a thin 
dark line that gradually grew into a high mountain range that seemed 
to drop to the ocean. 

Soon Beirut came into focus as gaily colored as Paris. And in a 
few moments we were over the beach, rich red in the dazzling sun 

"This is where St. George killed the dragon," someone said. "The 
beach was stained by the blood." 

We circled the airport twice and finally came in on a short run 
way, barely skimming the roofs. I saw a bearded Arab in a court 
yard a few hundred feet below us. As we roared by his tarboosh 


Its a Small World 

flew off, his beard stood out, the hair of his head seemed to stand 
up; panic was on his face. 

"I sympathized with him," the pilot later told me. "We practically 
had to scrape the housetops to make the landing." 

We spent three days in Beirut. Beirut has the touch of Europe on 
it. It is a great port for the vast interior. It faces the West and is 
affected by Western habits and thoughts. American University, 
founded in 1866 and now .headed by Dr. S. B. L. Penrose, is one of 
the reasons. The Lebanese merchants probably leading all in 
shrewdness are another. Here are modern hotels and telephones 
ajpproaching European efficiency. Western goods flood the market. 
Light cars made in Detroit scatter donkeys, camels, and people as 
they race down highways using their horns more than their brakes. 

We spent the three days with Dr. and Mrs. Penrose. This June 
was hot and sticky in Beirut uncomfortably humid like Washing 
ton, D.C. We swam in the Mediterranean with Arab boys who 
grinned at us when we spoke to them in English. Beautiful gardens 
run down from the Penrose home to the sea several hundred feet 
below. Here we explored new species of plants, came to know the 
sturdy, flat-topped stone pine, the acacia, and the Aleppo pine, and 
experimented with color film. 

Yet there was still the atmosphere of the Arabian Nights about 
the place. 

Porters carrying bales, desks, pianos, huge packing boxes on their 
backs with the aid of a head strap. 

The call of the Moslem priests to prayer. 

A kneeling man on a rug in a courtyard bowing toward Mecca. 

Veiled women peering timidly from windows. 

The babble of strange tongues in the market places. 

Stately caravans of camels swinging down highways. 

Burros loaded with bundles many times their size. 

Families on the move the husband out front on a burro; the wife 
on foot, with children and baggage, bringing up the rear. 

Veiled women carrying jugs, pots, baskets, and trays on their 

A fakir on the street corner putting on his act of torture for the 

Dark, immobile, inscrutable faces; strange food; music with an 
exotic lilt. 

1 68 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

All these and more gave an air of magic and mystery to the place. 

But by a curious turn of events I suddenly came to feel at home 
in Beirut. 

I attended the commencement exercises at the University. I saw 
men and women in the familiar cap and gown step forward and 
get their degrees in the humanities, in medicine, in philosophy, in 
engineering. The scene took me back to all the commencements I 
had attended in this country. This was the familiar, the known. 

Then came the speakers. The first was Dr. Costi K. Zurayk, noted 
Arabian scholar. He spoke warmly and fervently in Arabic. He 
spoke of the Arab culture and civilization. He told how it had its 
roots not only in the revelations of the Prophet Mohammed but also 
in the works of Plato and Aristotle. And he spoke of the "unity of 
humanity" across the various boundaries which divide peoples and 
religions. He spoke of the Arab philosopher who wrote, "I follow 
the religion of Love, whichever way his camels take. Love is my 
religion and my faith." 

I was the second speaker. My first words were in appreciation 
of the hospitality of Dr. Penrose and American University. Dr. 
Penrose had gone to my college Whitman. And when I was a 
student there his father- also S. B. L. Penrose had been its presi 
dent. It was my purpose to mention these matters. So I opened my 
talk with the statement, "I, too, went to Whitman College, Walla 

The whole audience three thousand Arabs burst into laughter. 

I was embarrassed. I searched for a clue to the humor. My mind 
was a blank. I turned to Dr. Penrose for some indication of what I 
had done. He had joined in the laughter and was of no use to me, 
I swallowed a couple of times, adjusted my mortarboard cap, and 
launched into my address, which was devoted to a discussion of the 
Four Enemies of Man the world around Illiteracy, Poverty, Disease* 
and Misgovernment. 

After the exercises were over I got Dr. Penrose aside and said, 
**What the devil did I say or do that was so funny?" 

He laughed again and said, "In Arabic Walla Walla means By 
God, By God." 

A walking trip that I took in the Lebanon Mountains made me 
seem very much at home in this strange land and taught me that the 

It s a Small World 

Arab peasant, who can be roused to fury, is a simple, uncomplicated, 
trusting soul. I also learned that this peasant, who plows an. inhos 
pitable soil and is bowed by poverty, carries the weight of the world 
with grace and dignity. 

It was the last week in June, 1949. There were five in the party 
Dr. Penrose and Professor William West of American University, 
Dave West, son of Professor West, my son Bill, and I. Professor 
West was our interpreter. We started at Biskinta, a village which 
lies forty-eight hundred feet high in the Lebanons north of Beirut 
and we ended five days later at Hadeth, above Tripoli. Mules car 
ried our baggage; and three peasants from Biskinta were our mu 
leteers Raji Tannus Tannouri, in his forties, tall and lean with a 
patrician look; Faris Usuf Hajj, short, stocky with a round and joy 
ous face, also in his forties; Khalil Yusuf, handsome son of Faris, in 
his teens. 

These men wore the typical peasant costume. The trouser legs fit 
snug and tight and the crotch is full and baggy, hanging almost to 
the knees. Their shoes were of leather and low, sandal-like. Their 
shirts were nondescript; their headdresses colorful. They wore the 
kafiyeh which covers the head and hangs below the shoulders. It 
is held on the head by a band, called the aghal. The color of the 
kafiyeh and aghal varies with tribes, professions, and the like. I 
thought at first that the kafiyeh was f olderol, a silly vestige of an 
cient custom. I learned differently. The headdress protects the neck 
and face from the burning sun, and keeps dust from the mouth. It 
is an article of amazing comfort on hot and treeless slppes and plains. 

I learned other things from these muleteers. I sat with them at 
night in our camps along the skyline of the Lebanons, watching the 
stars come out. Jupiter would hang like a brilliant flame in the sky, 
travel a low arc, and soon drop below a ridge. There would be the 
tinkle of bells on the mules, staked out close by. I could hear the 
soft trill of their lips as they talked back and forth. Some nights 
there would be the roar of a stream the milky Neba Leben (which 
means Fountain of Milk) or the clear River of Adonis. When we 
were camped high at Laqlouq all distant sounds floated in like faint 
echoes from the valleys below us and the ridges above. There was 
the yapping of a jackal and the response of a dog and the braying 
of a mule. The muleteers and I sat cross-legged on the ground, 
mostly in silence; but our session always ended in a seminar. They 

770 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

could not speak English nor I Arabic. But we taught each other. I 
taught them light, match, cigarette, water, mountain, star, thank 
you very much, hello, how are you?, yes, no. They repeated the 
words after me and laughed in an embarrassed manner at their 
clumsy pronunciation. 

They taught me m kary (muleteer); baghl (mule); jelal (pack sad 
dle); neba (big spring or fountain); am (small spring); anzih (goat); 
nor (fire); moy (water); shems (sun). Their faces were serious a 
wonderful study in complete concentration. An error on my part 
would cause a flicker of disappointment to cross Raji Tannus face. 
It was the disappointment of a teacher whose star pupil fails. He 
would shake his head, pronounce the word in the deep guttural 
that distinguishes the Arabic tongue, and hang eagerly on my next 
attempt. I remember he had great difficulty getting me to associate 
moy and water. When at last I did so, he jumped to his feet with 
the joy of a teacher whose pupil has just won a Pulitzer Prize. 
"Moy, moy, moy" he shouted approvingly and gave me a yard of 
Arabic of which I understood no part. 

Near the end of our journey I ended a class by proposing a toast: 
"A toast to teachers the world around." The four of us drank from 
an old tin cup, they knowing only that it was some act of American 

I wished many times I could have had a recording of our last half 
hour together. It was at Hadeth, a small village of a few hundred 
people. This was the end of our journey. Cars were there to pick us 
up; the muleteers would return to Biskinta. After the mules were 
unloaded, we gathered in the village square to say good-by and to 
settle accounts. 

Bill West stepped forward with a handful of Lebanese bills to 
pay the muleteers. Raji Tannus was their spokesman. He and Bill 
West were long in conversation. We had advanced Raji Tannus 
money along the way to buy eggs and cheese. That amount had to 
be computed and agreed upon. Then there was the question of the 

amount of compensation of the muleteers. The rate was clear 5 

($1.50) a day per mule. That meant $6 a day for the muleteers. But 
when did the days start? A full day at Biskinta though we arrived at 
noon? When would the days end? Now or when the muleteers got 
back to their home at Biskinta? If the latter, how long would it take 

Ms a Small World 777 

to return? We came in five days. Would three days be adequate for 
the return? 

These questions were finally answered to the satisfaction of Raji 
Tannus, who from time to time consulted his associates. BUI West 
agreed. The sum of money owed was computed, and Bill started 
counting out the bills to Raji Tannus. 

By this time two dozen men had gathered around. Their dark 
faces were serious and intent. One of the men was a coal-black 
Sudanese. Another was an Arab wearing a helmet on which a white 
cross had been drawn, the sign that he was deaf and dumb. All kept 
their eyes on the counting of the money. Raji Tannus counted out 
loud. At first he spoke softly. Then a few of the crowd joined him 
in the counting. Soon all of them but the mute were counting. 
Their voices picked up in volume. Soon it was a loud male chorus- 
fifty, fifty-five sixty, seventy, seventy-five, eighty-five. There was 
a swing and cadence to it. 

Counting the money had become a community project. The vil 
lagers were there in part to help Raji Tannus to see to it that he 
was not mulcted. But there was more significance than that in the 
event. No such money had ever been seen in this village. No wages 
of the kind we paid our muleteers had ever been paid there. This 
was a new order, a new economy come to Hadeth. These men 
scoured the bare hills and worked terraces on dizzy slopes to eke 
out a living. Some left their scrawny farms and worked for the gov 
ernment on the roads, breaking rocks with hammers for ninety 
cents a day. But the wages we paid were much better. These vil 
lagers were celebrating the occasion. Each was an excited participant 
in the adventure of Raji Tannus. 

The trail which we had traveled on our walking trip was always 
close to civilization, though it followed the skyline of the moun 
tains. Every available foot of ground in the Lebanon is cultivated. 
Men and women often climb high to reach a narrow terrace of 
grapes, apples, or cherries or walk far to plow a nub of a ridge for 
beans or potatoes. And so it was that we saw many farmers even 
though we kept well above the villages. 

One day we came to the high plateau at Laqlouq where a stone 
house with a flat roof stood desolate in an open field. It was the 
summer home of Sheikh Saleem el Hashem. 

Strange Lands and Friendly People 

Hollywood had taught me that a sheikh (pronounced shake and 
meaning the elder) was a man in flowing silken robes with a large 
harem. But there was not a touch of glamour or romance to this 
sheikh, who wore the ordinary trousers of the area, not a flowing 
robe. He was like any of ten thousand farmers the world around. 
My fantasy of a Hollywood sheikh was gone forever. 

There were occasional goatherds on the ridges above us. I could 
hear them singing from distant points of rock or lookouts. Strange, 
unfamiliar melodies pieces of folk songs which were old when 
Christ was born came floating down the wind as if from another 
world melancholy, lonely, sad. One day I heard an exultant one 
a song with a lilt, the music of laughter, gaiety, abandon. I could 
see the singer standing on a ledge high above me. He was singing 
his heart out. His music, like Pan s, was full of trills. 

The singer stopped and, after eying us for a spell, came dashing 
down the ridge, yelling as he ran. He stopped directly above us and 
shouted something. Bill West replied. The goatherd s face fell. We 
had declined a luncheon invitation. 

"What would we have had to eat?" I inquired. 

"Bread, cheese, and olives," Bill replied. "This man made a par 
ticular point of his cheese. Said it was good." 

I occasionally looked back as we moved along the trail. For a 
mile or more I saw the goatherd standing on the ledge where we 
had left him a lonesome soul, watching us until we were out of 

At one point the trail crossed a rough gully or ravine and then 
climbed steeply, clinging precariously to a steep mountainside. One 
of the mules went down. His front feet were over a ledge running 
crosswise of the trail and his belly was stuck on it. As a result of his 
struggles he went over on his side. The muleteers had to remove 
the pack. 

While our fallen mule was being repacked, we waited at a farm 
house beside the trail a few rods forward. A small spring had been 
enclosed by rock so that it poured over the lip of a ledge in a tiny 
cascade. A Cretan beam tree which resembles our mountain ash 
stood below the spring. A woman Christian came down to the 
spring to get water. She carried a jug of the type commonly seen 
in this region wide base, narrow throat, holding a quart or two of 
water. Its distinguishing characteristic was a small short beak about 

Ifs a Small World 

the size of a pencil extending from the side of the narrow throat. 
One does not put his mouth to this nozzle; he throws his head back, 
taking the stance of a sword swallower, and pours the water into his 
mouth. When I first tried to drink from one, the water missed my 
mouth completely, hitting my chin and running down my neck. 
And when at last I managed it, I almost choked to death. 

In a few minutes the man of the house appeared on the knoll 
above us. He shouted to Raji Tannus and came down to join us. 
Almost his first words were: "Are you Americans or British?" 

When told that we were Americans, he asked, "Have you come 
to take over the country?" 

We shook our heads and roared with laughter. 

His face fell. After a few minutes he said, "It s too bad you are 
not going to take the country over." 

"Why is it too bad?" 

"Because someone should take it over and run it." 

Then followed a long complaint: 

Everywhere, he said, was corruption. Hashish was grown here. 
Hashish is against the law. But someone high up controls the hashish. 

In one village, he said, was a forest, owned by the villagers. It 
was communal property where everyone could cut wood for his 
needs. Wood was very important here because the winters were 
cold; it was the only fuel for wanning houses. It seems that there 
was a project for bringing electricity to this village. The lines got 
within a mile of the place when construction stopped, and the vil 
lage was told that it could not get electric power without payment 
of a bonus of 20,000 ,. The village did not have that amount *of 
money. To get it the forest was cut down and the wood sold. The 
money went to a contractor and some officials, this man said. 

The government, he complained, did nothing about the irrigation 
system. Water went to waste; the ditches were not good. 

His complaints came in a torrent. They proved, he maintained, 
that America would do well to take over Lebanon and run it. 

The inquiry of this simple peasant is worth a whole volume on 
the psychology of the Middle East. From time out of mind some 
foreign power has been running these countries or meddling in 
their affairs. When there were persecutions or massacres or any 
other major trouble, Turkey, France, England or Russia stepped in 
either to give asylum to a minority or to take the reins of govern- 

Strange Lands and Friendly People 

ment in its own hands. Today when trouble brews in the Middle 
East, the peasants begin to wonder what foreign power will rescue 
them. The democratic tradition of self-help is just starting to take 
hold among these people. They must not be judged by political 
standards which we espouse and which took Englishmen at least 
seven hundred years to mature. 

At Biskinta, the start of the walking trip, I met Mikhail Naimy. 
A man by the name of Sol Fard stepped out of the crowd and in 
perfect English invited me to Naimy s house. As we walked through 
a peach orchard to Naimy s home, a square stone building with a 
tiled roof, I learned that Sol Fard was a native Lebanese, now living 
in Portland, Oregon, and home on a vacation. Naimy also spoke 
perfect English. He too had started at Portland, attended the Uni 
versity at Seattle, and lived in New York City. 

As we sipped Turkish coffee, he told how he had graduated from 
the University of Washington School of Law and had been admitted 
to practice law in Washington. After serving with the U. S. Army 
in World War I, he was granted citizenship by Congress. He was a 
member of a literary colony in New York City. There he lived and 
worked with the late Kahlil Gibran, who wrote The Prophet. Naimy 
spoke of his recent book Mirdad and its theme that freedom comes 
dkrough love and understanding. 

Naimy is a philosopher, a poet. He has the face of an aesthete. His 
fingers are long and delicate. His deep dark eyes were somber and 
reflective as he talked. When he finished I asked why he had turned 
hi back on law and literature in the United States and retired to 

"Will you come to my farm near Mount Sannine? It s on your 
way. There I will answer your question." 

The farmhouse was a low, stone house that lay below the trail 
on the right. The farm was perhaps twelve acres and all in cherries, 
plums, peaches, pears, and apples. We sat on a terrace built around 
a giant oak that was about 150 years old and one of the loveliest 
trees I have seen. To the north a mile or so as the crow flies was 
Mount Sannine, 8,600 feet high with patches of snow all the way to 
its top. Below us to the south were die peaked, red-tiled roofs of 
Biskiixta and the outline of the rocky gorge called tie Wadi Jmej 
or Valley of the SkulL 

Ifs a Small World 

We ate the sandwiches we had packed for lunch; and then 
Naimy s brother who worked the orchards brought us a platter 
of cherries for dessert. As we ate, Naimy talked of Biskinta and 
Lebanon; how the war in Palestine had lost for the Lebanese their 
best market for fruit; how the French in their long occupation had 
saddled an enervating bureaucracy on Lebanon; how America, if 
she was to make progress against Russia in the Middle East, had to 
promote and back programs of social and economic emancipation 
for the masses of the people there. 

There was quiet for a few moments after he finished. Then I re 
peated the question I had put him in the village. 

"I needed the quiet of the hills," he answered. "That is why I re 
turned to Lebanon." 

The song of the meadow lark floated up from a pasture below 
the orchard. Then came a softer, sweeter song. 

"Do you recognize it?" he asked. I shook my head. 

"Goldfinches." All conversation ceased while the place was filled 
with the melody of their singing. 

Naimy touched my arm and pointed to Mount Sannine towering 
over us. Clouds were drifting in from the Mediterranean and cast 
ing shadows over the great limestone wall, flecked with snow. The 
cliffs turned gray to pink to purple. 

"America is a beautiful country and I love your people," he went 
on to say. "But I could not endure your great cities. I felt the whole 
weight of New York City on my shoulders." 

"We have lovely mountains, too." 

"For me there s no mountain like Sannine. It belongs to my people. 
It has seen their sorrows and disasters. It is a symbol of their 
strength and of their hopes and aspirations, too!" 

There was tenderness in his voice as he ended, "The call of San 
nine was too strong to resist. I can find peace and harmony only 
when I live in its shadow." 

Three days later we were camped at Monk s Spring at Laqlouq 
over sixty-five hundred feet high in the Lebanons. It was late after 
noon and I had gone to the spring for a drink. 

As I rose I saw a man coming up the slope toward the spring. He 
was almost running. He appeared to be an Arab but his headdress 
was different. Instead of the flowing kafiyeh he had on a knit cap 
without a visor. He was dark and swarthy stocky and about five 

Strange Lands and Friendly People 

feet eight. His black hair was slightly gray. He stopped before me 
out of breath. 

Then he said in broken English, "Are you Joostis Dooglaw?" 

I told him I was. 

"I am Yacoub Bishara." 

I took him to camp. 

"Where In the world did you learn to speak English?" I asked. 

"Portland, Oregon." 

I had to smile. Another Oregonian had popped up from nowhere 
in the high mountains of Lebanon. 

Yacoub Bishara told me that he had gone to Portland when he 
was a young man and had worked in a cement factory. Then he 
worked on a farm. In fact, he had undertaken to buy the farm. It 
was a wonderful farm soil three or four feet deep, "not like thees 
rocks of Laqlouq." 

I asked him why he left the United States. He told a long ram 
bling story how his mother in Lebanon got sick, why he had to 
support her, how he got stranded and could not return. It seems he 
had married and had eight children. 

"How wonderful!" I exclaimed. "What a lucky man!" 

"No, no, no, not lucky," he sadly replied. 

And with great feeling he went on to say that he must have 
sinned terribly to have been forced to return to Lebanon. I asked 
why. He said that the thirteen years in America were heaven the 
great happiness of his life. Return to Lebanon was punishment 
punishment for some sin. In Lebanon he had to slave to grow food 
among rocks. In America the plow sank deep; anything would grow. 
There were schools and plumbing in America. There were doctors 
for everyone, and hospitals. Yes, America was the most wonderful 
country in the world. In America he was happy. In Lebanon he was 
overworked and harassed. 

Then Yacoub spoke of his sons. He wanted them to go to Amer 
ica. He wanted them to have the opportunities he had missed. Per 
haps, Yacoub suggested, I could help. Perhaps his sons could escape 
the punishment of having to earn a livelihood on rocky, wasted land. 

I spoke up. "Yacoub, I think you might not feel so depressed if 
you had a shave. You haven t shaved for a week." 

He rubbed his chin and nodded his head. 

"How would you like to be shaved by an electric razor?" 

Ifs a Small World 777 

" Lectric razor?" he asked "There s no lectricity in Laqlouq." 
And with that he shrugged his shoulders and looked around. 

"Oh, yes, there is. We bring it with us." 

My son got out our battery and electric razor. As the buzzing of 
the razor started Yacoub s dark brown eyes got wider. He was too 
polite to refuse me. But he feared nothing worse than what awaited 
him. There was near panic in his face as I raised the razor to it. He 
looked as I imagine a man looks who takes his seat in the electric 

Yacoub jumped when the razor touched his face. Then he re 
laxed and enjoyed the shave. I finished one side of his face and 
started on the other. The razor ran like a lawn mower through deep 
grass, leaving a single narrow path down his cheek. At that point he 
made me stop. He wanted his face left like that so that he could 
prove that he had been shaved by my razor, not by his own. 

During the shave other Arabs had appeared from nowhere eight 
or ten of them. They stood silently in a crescent around Yacoub. 
When I had finished, they pounded Yacoub on the back. They 
shook him by the shoulder. They shouted and gesticulated, all talk 
ing at once. When quiet had been restored, I got the gist of the 

"Yacoub Bishara, an honor and distinction has come to you that 
no one in the long and glorious history of Lebanon has ever had. 
What has happened to you never happened even to any king or 
prince of Lebanon. You are the first man in the whole king 
dom ever shaved by an electric razor. You must go home at once 
and tell your children and make sure they tell their children, so that 
people will know throughout all time that the first man in the history 
of Lebanon to be shaved by an electric razor was Yacoub Bishara." 

My son Bill was meanwhile busily engaged making something. 

"What are you up to?" I inquired. 

"Making a barber shop sign. Maybe we can earn some of our ex 

We then took pictures of Yacoub. He asked if I would send him 
some. I promised. He said I would probably forget. 

"Forget? Forget Yacoub Bishara? Never." 

He wanted the pictures by Christmas. Would I promise really 

"Yes, I ll promise. I ll send you three of each by Christmas." 

ij8 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

And with that Yacoub bade us good-by. He put out a gnarled 
and rough hand and took mine, thanks and gratitude on his face. 
Then he went down the mountain to his village of Akoura. 

In a few moments another Arab came walking rapidly toward us, 
his kafiyeh flying in the breeze. He too was coming on the run. All 
of us stood watching him for several minutes. Finally Dave West 
spoke up. 

"First it was Sol Fard from Portland, Oregon. Then Mikhail 
Naimy from Portland, Oregon. Then Yacoub Bishara from Port 
land, Oregon. If this newcomer is from Portland, Oregon, I m going 
to shoot him." 

When I returned to the States I remembered my promise to 
Yacoub Bishara to send him prints of the photographs before 
Christmas. But an intervening event being crushed by a horse 
while riding the high Cascades laid me up for months. Finally one 
day in the Yakima hospital I thought of Yacoub. I was distressed be 
cause my promise to him would be broken. So I had my secretary 
in Washington, D. C. write Yacoub and tell him of my accident, and 
say that the pictures would be sent as soon as I could find them and 
arrange it. Several months passed. Near the end of my convalescence 
the following letter arrived: 

Akoura Labenen 

Dear feb. 5-1950 

Justice W. O. Douges 

I racifd you wallcan letter and I was verey surey wen I know you f ol 
of the Herse and he railed ouer you bet I wos gllad wen I knau you get 
well I wesh you the best the helet Know I an stel weten far the pickres 
you pramised tau send tau me I kck tau hau you send me sam nams 
from u.s.a. I gad nat ansur you leter san. 

Mey bey have thrabll bet he cam out o.k. I tank the god We have 3 
yard snaw an the leallmo I sen Dog. Benrowy,* in Beyrauth and he is o.k. 
I wash I gatt Mad trek to U.S. for set Manes I well writ to you Maur 
the Nixt rime I wesh you will return ton Wash. D.C. and har from you 
I send Mey best greetigs and best wishes, to you f amelly 
Very truly yours 
Yacoup Bashara 
of Akoura Lebanon 
et kous Mey writen and spolem 

* The Arabic alphabet has no letter P. 

25. The Poisonous Bite of the Goat 

ONE HAS to walk the Middle East to know the full impact of over 
grazing of land and unlimited cutting of trees. Here one sees the 
end product of erosion. A trail that follows the contours of the 
ridges passes only a few trees a day. In summer one is under a blister 
ing sun the whole day through. Great areas show nothing but ugly 
gullies. The topsoil of the upland basins has rushed to the sea. Only 
bare rocks are left or fields which show little soil until tons of rocks 
are removed from them. The slopes have been washed by millions 
of rains and robbed of their fertility, so that today nothing remains 
but miles of rocky expanse. Some of the rocks have fantastic shapes 
towers, mushrooms, pyramids, needlelike pillars, cliffs with great 
overhangs produced by a weathering of the base. A changing light 
turns this land into an artist s paradise, as colors turn from blue, 
green, gray, and brown. But it is land that is no better than marginal 
and often sterile. 

The tragedy grows as the pressure of people on land continues. 
The pressure is great; every possible bit of ground is used. Across 
the Neba Leben River there is a gracefully arched, natural bridge 
eighty feet or more above the water. The natural bridge supports 
a good-sized potato patch, fifty by one hundred feet. Scabby hill 
sides are turned into meager terraces. Marginal land, scab land, 
submarginal land are all used as the demand for food increases. This 
is not a new problem. Two thousand years ago Romans were build 
ing terraces along these same hillsides; and many of the stone fences 
they laid are there today. 

While the chief villain in the story is the goat, even he has a few 
redeeming features. He showed me, for example, a wondrous sight 
the night we stayed at the headwaters of Neba Leben. We were 
camped right under Mount Sannine, out of whose rock wall Neba 

i So Strange Lands and Friendly People 

Leben pours with a roar. Its northern cliffs rose over three thousand 
feet above us and flared out at the base forming a rough amphi 
theater. We had indeed front-row seats for a beautiful spectacle. 

A herd of goats dropped off the mountain. I first saw them when 
they were fifteen hundred feet or more above us. These goats are 
different from ours. They are smaller than our goat wiry and 
robust, shiny black with ears that are long, narrow, and thin. 

This was a herd of several hundred goats. Behind them was the 
herder dressed in flowing robes and a dark kafiyeh. He had two dogs 
with him. The goats came off Sannine mostly in double file. They 
were spread out several hundred yards, forming shiny black 
streamers down the limestone slopes of Sannine. 

Bill West turned to me and said, "Do you remember what Solomon 
said about his lady s hair?" 
I confessed I did not recall. 

"Thy hair is as a flock of goats. That is from the Song of 

Memories of Sunday-school days came back to me. I remembered 
how puzzled I had been over that expression. Hair like a flock of 
goats? It must be some allegory. It could not possibly be flattering. 
Goats smell; goats are dirty; goats are coarse and ugly. 

But now I knew that Solomon complimented his lady. The prophet 
had doubtless seen sights such as this, evening after evening, as shep 
herds brought their goats off limestone and basalt mountains for 
bedding down in the valleys. The sight was indeed a beautiful one. 
Black, lustrous, rippling streamers of hair down a mountainside! A 
more graphic description of beautiful hair would be difficult to 

Most of the activities of the goat, however, are on the debit side. 
Once the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon Mountains were covered with 
thick forests of cedars, pine, juniper, and oak. Some were cut for 
timber, some for fuel, and some to run slag furnaces. These moun 
tains had small iron deposits that were worked centuries ago. No new 
forests grew up when the old ones were cut. The goat was the 
reason. He ate the seedlings. We know that is the reason, because 
tfae ridges that are kept free of goats grow new forests today. 

A goat will eat practically anything and does. One ate a part of 
my phot press when my back was turned and while I was taking 
pictures. The people cannot live without the goat, since he supplies 

The Poisonous Bite of the Goat 181 

their meat, milk, butter, cheese, leather, and wool They cannot live 
with him because he makes them poorer every day. The problem of 
the goat is basic and fundamental. His bite is poisonous; he is a 
scourge to the earth unless tethered. To rebuild the economy of the 
Middle East so as to leave the goat as the poor man s cow and de 
velop other means of livelihood is a major problem not only in 
agricultural planning but in politics as well. An economy that is as 
old as man is hard to change. 

I talked with many goatherds about the problem of the goat, but 
they had no understanding of it. The goat was their livelihood; what 
was good for the goat was good for them. One day in the high 
Lebanons above the village of Akoura I sat with an Arab boy about 
twelve years old who showed two missing teeth when he smiled. He 
had a flock of goats grazing on a washed and sterile hillside where 
only yarrow and thistles grew in the summer. As I sat with him mem 
ories of an experience in my boyhood flooded my mind. 

I was traveling the Conrad Creek Trail of the Cascade Mountains 
in the State of Washington on my way to the Goat Rocks. I was 
several miles above the lush Conrad Meadows where grass grows 
stirrup high when I saw a campfire on the edge of a small wet 
meadow that abounded in beaver. A ranger of our Forest Service 
was cooking a meal. He invited me to join him. During this meal I 
received my first lecture on conservation. 

My ranger friend told me of the telltale signs of erosion which 
he had discovered in a meadow below us* Sheep had caused it. 
He explained why it was; sheep had been on these slopes in too 
great numbers and for too long a time. 

"Nature has constructed reservoirs in every meadow and on every 
slope of these mountains. On the slope below us are millions upon 
millions of fine roots of grasses. There are also coarser roots of 
shrubs and greater roots of trees. They hold rain water back; they 
impound it and release it slowly. Moreover roots of grasses, shrubs, 
and trees build soil. They create it through chemical processes and 
through their own transformation into humus. Heavy grazing of 
the grass and the pounding of the turf by the hoofs of too many 
animals uncover the soil. Then the ground is ready for destruction. 
When the soil is bare, water runs off fast, taking the topsoil with 
it. If it is held by grasses and roots, it seeps out slowly and is as 
crystal clear as Conrad Creek down there in the meadow. The grass 

1 82 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

makes cover for the soil too, protecting it from erosion by rain 
and wind" 

I went with my ranger friend as he inspected some misused mead 
ows, and he told me about the seed time of grass too. He said that 
stock should be kept off until the grass is about ankle deep; that 
some grass seed should ripen each year. "Get next year s grass seed 
in the ground," he said, "and you re beginning to lick the problem 
of overgrazing." 

He explained how it was that next year s grass crop is injured if 
all of this year s crop is eaten. A good part of the green leafage 
should be left. The green leaves manufacture the food which makes 
the grass grow. In the winter it is stored in the roots. The next 
spring new growth comes from the stored food. If all the green 
leaves are eaten, the grass starves. 

"That nourishment is carbohydrates," he added, "like potatoes 
and bread and ice cream that people eat. Grass must have the nourish 
ment made by the leaves if it is to remain strong. Sheep have been 
eating too much here. Use of this area should be much lighter." 

That was why fewer plants were growing in this high basin. There 
were bare spots between the clumps of grass. The humus cover of 
dead vegetation was being washed away. Very little was left to decay 
and to enrich and make new soil There would be a greater runoff 
next spring. 

"Muddy water ll pour into the South Fork," he said. "We can 
see that kind of damage. But there s other damage that is not so 
easy to see." 

He went on to explain that when there is good cover for the soil, 
water seeps through leaves, humus, and roots into the topsoil under 
neath. Topsoil is granulated and porous. It absorbs the water and 
sends much of it into underground reservoirs. These underground 
reservoirs are hooked up into great uncharted and unseen river 
courses that are tapped for wells, that come bubbling out of the 
ground in springs, and that feed lakes and streams. Once the plant 
cover of the topsoil is gone, swift runoffs take the topsoil with 
them to the ocean. The ground under the topsoil becomes hard. 
It is packed, not porous. It will not absorb water. There are no 
leaves and plant tops to decay and form new rich, porous soil. 

"When the rains come," he explained, "the water will not soak 

The Poisonous Bite of the Goat 183 

through. The underground reservoirs will not be filled. Some wells 
a hundred miles from, here will go dry." 

This ranger also told me about forests and lumber. 

"Asparagus is fast-growing," he said. "You can cut stalk after 
stalk in the same bed without danger. Pine, fir, and cedar are the 
same, except that it takes fifty to one hundred years for them to do 
what asparagus can do in a few days. One crop of lumber after 
another that s what the nation must have. Cutting must be planned. 
Only mature trees must be cut." 

He stopped and pointed out the red and white fir around us that 
were too young to cut and other trees that were ripe, if not overripe. 

Then he continued, "There must always be a crop of lumber 
in the ground. There must always be a crop maturing. The demand 
for lumber will increase. The forests must be cut. But the forests 
must always have as much or more timber in them as they had when 
we started. We can grow richer rather than poorer in timber, if we 
will use our heads." 

What my ranger friend described to me was the lumbering method 
known as the sustained yield. Since he spoke some thirty years ago 
it has gradually attained a wider adoption in the United States. 

I thought of this lesson in conservation as I sat with the Arab boy 
on the slope above Akoura. 

No ranger had ridden the hills of Lebanon to watch for telltale 
signs of erosion, to say what basins should be grazed, to mark the 
trees that could be cut. For centuries there had been no guardians 
of the public interest in topsoil. Men and goats both greedy 
took what they wanted from the earth. 

The early Phoenicians cut the forests, especially the cedars, for 
the construction of their merchant ships that plied the ocean. Solo 
mon built his Temple at Jerusalem with cedars furnished by Hiram, 
King of Tyre: 

And Hiram sent to Solomon, saying, I have considered the doings 
which thou sentest to me for: and I will do all thy desire concerning 
timber of cedar, and concerning timber of fir. My servants shall bring 
them down from Lebanon unto the sea: and I will convey them by 
sea in floats unto the place that thou shalt appoint me, and will cause 
them to be discharged there, and thou shalt receive them: and thou 
shalt accomplish my desire, in giving food for my household. (I Kings 
5:8, 9.) 

iff Strange Lands and Friendly People 

Solomon also built his own house 

of the forest of Lebanon; the length thereof was an hundred cubits, j 
the breadth thereof fifty cubits, and the height thereof thirty cubits, uj 
four rows of cedar pillars, with cedar beams upon the pillars. And it ^ 
covered with cedar above upon the beams, that lay on forty five pilL 
fifteen in a row. (I Kings 7:2, 3.) 

It was a mighty host that gathered the materials from Leban 
for Solomon s project: 

And Solomon had threescore and ten thousand that bare burde 
and fourscore thousand hewers in the mountains ... (I Kings 5:15.) 

At that time the mountains of Lebanon must indeed have be 
lush with cedars and other trees. Eighty thousand woodcutte 
"Today June 1949," I thought, "eight woodcutters could ma 
short shrift of all that is left of the famous cedars." 

As I rose to go I thought that any sheepman, cattleman, or lumb< 
man in America who complained of the regulation of grazing 
cutting of trees should be given a free trip to the Middle East 
that he could see with his own eyes what erosion can do. 

26. Cedars of Lebanon 

"As THE shadow of a great rock in a weary land." One has to travel 
in a barren, naked land under a blistering sun fully to appreciate 
that Biblical expression. On mountain trips in the Middle East light 
and heat are everywhere. There s no escape from them no retreat, 
no solace, no relief. One watches the angle of the sun in the sky, pray 
ing for its early disappearance. The earth is a hot griddle fair- 
skinned man is the victim. His energy is sucked out of him through 
all his pores. Shade is haven to a man pursued by light, as land is to 
the drowning. 

We had walked four days under a sweltering sun. There was no 
cover of any kind f or man, birds, or beasts. The Mediterranean sky 
was cruel. When at last I reached the cedars at Hadeth, I had an 
interesting psychological experience. I lay on my back under the 
first cedar and thanked God for trees. I felt as if I had reached home, 
as if protective arms were around me. I had escaped an enemy that 
pursued me with a hot breath. I, a refugee from the sun who was 
burned to a frazzle, was at last safe. 

The cedar of Lebanon is the true cedar. It has dark-green needles 
similar to our red fir. At Hadeth the cedars are wind-blown, about 
thirty feet high, with three- or four-foot trunks. Most of them 
have been topped, and as a result of cutting they have split trunks. 
The effect is a chewed-off, mutilated forest. But the cedars of 
Bsharreh, which we visited after we left Hadeth, are perfect speci 
mens. They are east of Hadeth at the head of Qadisha Canyon, a 
harsh, rough defile about fifteen hundred feet deep and famous in 
the Middle East for its danger and beauty. The local name of these 
cedars is Arz-ar-Rubb Cedars of the Lord. 

These cedars rise a hundred feet or more. While the trunks are 
usually four or five feet thick, like our tamarack, some are over 


1 86 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

thirty feet in diameter. These are the monarchs of the forest, per 
haps a thousand years old. The branches are long and swooping and 
cover the ground for fifty feet or more around. A forest of them is 
so closely woven with branches that it is difficult to get a picture 
of a single tree. At Bsharreh there are only about four hundred 
cedars left, packed together in a small ten-acre tract, the remnants 
of a mighty race. And they barely survived, even after the church 
that owned them threatened excommunication to any who cut the 
trees. Still the grove steadily diminished in size for generations. Now 
it is a government preserve. 

When I saw the true and perfect specimens of the cefdars, the 
praise which the Bible bestows on them had new meaning for me. 

Moses knew the hot breath of Palestine and Arabia in summer. 
He had felt the oven heat of basalt rocks in the hills; he had known 
the searing of desert sands. He too had walked treeless plains look 
ing for shade. He had stood on naked ridges and looked into valleys 
barren of green meadows, lakes, or streams. He had crossed saddles 
where in a whole expanse of dreary land there was not a bit of 
shade, no clump or line of trees to break the monotony. The land 
of Moab is parched and dry. The treeless plains of Bashan are often 
scorched; its lava rock remains hot the night through. 

So Moses looked north to Lebanon where patches of snow capped 
the highest ridges-, where the slopes were dark green with the thick 
stands of cedars; where Neba Leben and other cold streams gushed 
from limestone cliffs. And he said, "I pray thee, let me go over, 
and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, 
and Lebanon." (Deuteronomy 3:25.) 

When Solomon said, "His countenance is as Lebanon, excellent 
as the cedars" (Song of Solomon 5: 15) he meant that their majesty 
suggested repose, tranquillity, and nobility. 

The mountains of Lebanon were the hills to which the Psalmist 
raised his eyes and from which came his strength. Here were snow 
peaks, roaring brooks, green forests, abundant springs, luxuriant 
meadows, brilliant flowers. Here was the source of life and liveli 
hood Above all else here was solitude sublime, the place of medi 
tation and communion. "The righteous shall flourish like the palm 
tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon." (Psalms 92: 12.) 

And so the destruction of the cedars became the symbolism of dire 

Cedars of Lebanon i8j 

calamity and disaster. It was the ultimate in expression of the wrath 
of God. 

"Lebanon is ashamed and hewn down. * (Isaiah 33:9.) 

"And I will prepare destroyers against thee, every one with his 
weapons: and they shall cut down thy choice cedars, and cast them 
into the fire." (Jeremiah 22:7.) 

"Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy 
cedars." (Zechariah iin.) 

The Prophets knew what the scourge of deforestation could do 
to a land that it was the ultimate in destruction. The cedars are 
mostly gone. Topsoil that their roots once held back has rushed to the 
Mediterranean. The gullies become harsher and deeper, the land 
more impoverished every year. The goats keep new forests from 
rising. Yacoub Bishara has to rise at 3 A.M. to eke out a living from 
the thin and rocky soil that is left. Poverty has permeated the land. 

27. The Agrarian Problem 

WE IN America think of the Arabs as a nomadic people. The 
Bedouins are. But at least 90 per cent of the Arab world is even 
more firmly settled than our Iowa farmers. The economy of the 
Arab world is predominantly agricultural. The most acute and 
pressing problems in this area are therefore rural ones, 

Poverty is foremost in the Arab world. Poverty in that region, as 
elsewhere, breeds malnutrition, unsanitary conditions of living, 
miserable housing, high infant mortality, and a long list of prevent 
able diseases. But poverty in the Arab world is not the temporary 
kind that a depression produces in our country; it is permanent and 
abiding, the product of age-old and deep-seated ailments. 

The reasons for this poverty are several. First is the system of land 
ownership. In Egypt about four million people are actively engaged 
in agriculture. Of these, three million own no land or own less than 
a feddan slightly more than an acre. In Syria about 55 per cent 
of the land is owned by landlords and cultivated by share tenants. 
These holdings are large, 25 per cent of the land being in units of 
five hundred hectares or more one hectare being roughly two and 
a half acres. In southern Iraq practically all the land is owned by 
landlords who lease it, through an intermediary called the sirkal, 
on shares to the cultivators. In Lebanon there is more land owned 
by the farmers who till the soil than in any of the other Arab 
countries. But in Lebanon there are great landholdings along the 
coast and in the interior valley of the Boqaa. 

The system of share-tenancy gives the tenant little feeling of 
security. He is subject to eviction at the will of the landlord; he 
has no fixed tenure. The rent he pays varies; usually it is a per 
centage of the crop. One way of dividing the crop is by fifths: 
one for the land, one for seed, one for water, one for beasts of 

The Agrarian Problem 18$ 

burden, one for labor. It is not unusual for the tenant to retain only 
20 per cent under that system, since the landlord will often furnish 
not only the land but the seed, water, and work animals as well. But 
the tenant s share of the crop is customarily higher. He may pay 
only one-fifth, one-third, or one-half of the crop as rent. His actual 
share, however, is usually much less than the share to which he is 
entitled under the lease. The reason is that there is little bank credit 
available for agriculture. In Syria some agricultural bank loans up 
to a thousand dollars are available at 9 per cent interest. But the 
farmer who owns land as well as the landless tenant must usually 
resort to moneylenders, who have extortionate rates of interest 
15 and 20 per cent are customary; 100 per cent is sometimes charged. 
A tenant soon gets in debt to a moneylender or to his landlord. In 
most cases he is unable to repay the principal and meet the heavy 
installments of interest. He becomes in substance a serf, irrevocably 
tied to a master by debt. Though his share of the crop may on its 
face seem generous, what he is able to retain is only enough to keep 
him and his family at a subsistence level. 

This system of tenancy not only makes the great bulk of the 
farming class perpetually poor; it also has a devastating effect on the 
land, for the tenants feel no responsibility for the use of fertilizers 
or for the adoption of long-range programs of land improvement. 
The system leaves no room for incentive for the prospect that 
increased activity will bring new rewards. 

The methods of fanning are in the main still primitive. Egypt 
is an exception. The areas where farmers own their own land, 
as in parts of Lebanon, and where large holdings are devoted to 
the raising of cereals, as in north Syria, are another exception. But 
the habits of farming are for the most part what they were in the 
days of Christ. Plowing is done with a stick, harvesting with hand 
sickles, thrashing by rolling a spiked drum over grain piled on the 
ground, separating by tossing the wheat or barley in the air 
with a fork, the chaff being blown to one side. Olive trees will 
produce a crop every year. But in this region the farmers get a 
crop every two years. The reason is that they harvest the crop by 
knocking the fruit off the trees with long sticks, which destroys a 
large percentage of the buds from which next year s crop derives. 

A few of the Arab countries have oil, but the natural resources 
of most of them are skimpy. There is no iron and very little coaL 

/j?o Strange Lands and Friendly People 

The region is arid: the coastal ranges get around twenty-one inches 
of rain a year; the interior from six to ten inches. In the interior 
only one crop in two years or two crops in three years may be 
grown except where there is irrigation as in the valleys of the 
Tigris, Euphrates, and the Nile. Most of the major streams have not 
yet been harnessed for flood control, irrigation, and electric power. 
Soil erosion and the uneconomic use of water have gone on for 
centuries. They continue to deplete the land. 

The pressure on the land increases yearly. The area has a potential 
capacity to care for many more millions of people, but to do so it 
must have numerous TVA s and other handiworks of science. Today 
the continuous increase in population merely serves to intensify the 
conditions of poverty. 

In many sections of Egypt and in the dry-farming areas of Syria, 
Transjordan, and Iraq the agricultural worker the fellah is on a 
seasonal basis. He sows the cereals in the spring and harvests them 
in the fall, working a half or perhaps only a third of the year. He 
and his kind are not migratory workers; they barely exist on the 
few hundred dollars which their partial employment produces each 

In the rural areas illiteracy is high perhaps 95 per cent. There 
are few rural schools. The peasants have no avenues of escape from 
their conditions no keys to knowledge that will show them im 
proved methods of plowing and irrigating, the use of fertilizers, the 
way to balance the economy of a farm with livestock, the control 
of disease among fruit and vegetables, the prevention of disease 
among humans. 

The governments in these areas are alive to these conditions, but the 
measures taken to date have not touched the fundamental conditions 
on which the destitution of the masses grows. Remedies employed 
either have been minor in nature or, where more ambitious, have 
chiefly aided the landlords. The United States Agricultural Mission 
made a comprehensive study of agricultural conditions in Syria and 
submitted an excellent report in 1946. The report is highly praised 
on all sides. But by 1950 nothing had been done to implement it. 

The measure closest to actual land reform in the Ajrab world is 
the provision of die new Syrian constitution that, "A maximum 
limit for landownership shall be prescribed by law." But that touches 

The Agrarian Problem 

only future acquisitions, not present holdings, since it has no retro 
active effect. 

The Arab peasant has long been a fatalist and still is. But he is 
beginning to understand his problems the causes of his misery and 
the remedies for it. 

Part of his understanding has come from the dissemination of 
ideas about America and its way of life; part has been due to Soviet 
propaganda. Soviet propaganda reached the peak of its influence in 
the Arab world in 1944. A picture of Stalin then hung in almost 
every Arab home. The expression Abou Shanab "the man with 
the mustache" came into common usage. Abou Shanab became a 
sort of Robin Hood. A peasant who was angry at his landlord, an 
employee who had been discharged by his employer, a person who 
was indignant over the acts of a crooked politician each of these 
would threaten vengeance. He would say that Abou Shanab would 
see that evil was punished, that the cause of justice was served. 

When on November 29, 1947 the Soviet Union voted in favor 
of partition of Palestine, the wooing of the Arabs by the Soviets 
received a serious setback. The Arab governments at once out 
lawed the Communist party; and their publications were banned. 
Six Communists were burned to death in Damascus. The Com 
munist party in the Arab world went underground. The party 
was purged; the intellectuals were weeded out Control of the 
party in the Middle East was given to professionals whose endur 
ance to suffering and whose loyalty to the Kremlin had been 
thoroughly tested. 

Communist propaganda has to date failed to make Communists 
of the masses. It has, however, made them politically conscious. It 
has created an acute awareness of their troubles and dissatisfaction 
with the status quo. 

Illiteracy, disease, poverty, and misgovernment these are real, 
personal enemies of the Arab peasant. The Moscow radio tells about 
them. It speaks of the corruption in high places; the struggle of 
the Arab at the bottom to escape his cruel fate; the eagerness of the 
Soviet people to help the oppressed; the savagery with which the 
ruling class, aided and abetted by the "Anglo-American imperialists, 7 
thwart every move by the masses to free themselves from the feudal 
system. The Moscow radio speaks in Arabic: 

"Tonight you Arabs sit in your mud huts eating unleavened 

i$2 Strange Lmds and Friendly People 

bread, cheese, and olives. Tonight your masters who are supported 
by the Anglo-American imperialists feast on the fat of the land. 
You live in filth and misery; they dress in silk and live in comfort. 
They and the Anglo-American imperialists will not let you be freed 
from your misery and your suffering." 

What Sir Oliver Franks, British Ambassador to the United States, 
recently said of the peasants of southeast Asia can be appropriately 
applied to the Arab peasants as well: "We can no longer assume, 
as they no longer assume, that generation after generation will come 
and go in unchanging ways, lost to all comforts but the meagre 
one of traditional fatalism." 

28. Zayim 

THE FAMOUS gardens of the Middle East are those in the palace 
of Azm in Damascus, built two hundred years ago by a noted 
governor. Today its fountains still produce the music of cascades. 
A mass of jasmine, hauntingly fragrant, blooms against a brick 
wall; sour orange trees, loquat trees, the thin dark cypress sway 
in the wind that sweeps off the desert; goldenrod and morning 
glories give a dash of color to drab cky walls. 

Azm represents the peak of splendor. Yet every Arab, no matter 
how poor, has his garden or courtyard. In the typical village the 
home of a poor Arab opens on a courtyard of hard-packed dirt sur 
rounded by a mud wall about eight feet tall. It has no tree or touch 
of greenness. An open ditch carrying waste water from the house 
runs through it, the assembly point of a host of flies. The courtyard 
carries the smell of goats and donkeys. Yet the garden is home, the 
place where privacy begins. 

One July night in 1949 we sat in a more pretentious garden in 
Damascus. A rich lawn filled the space, and willow and apple trees 
bent before a wind that swept from the west off the Anti-Lebanon 
Mountains, It had been blistering hot that afternoon. Now it was 
cool so cool that it was uncomfortable to sit long without a wrap. 

A group of us had discussed at length the economic plight of the 
peasant in the Middle East, the remedies for his ills, Soviet propa 
ganda, the prospect of effective political action to combat it. One 
of the group a large landowner deprecated the suggestion that 
modern agricultural methods should be introduced. He described 
in detail the primitive methods of harvesting grain, how women 
worked all day on their knees to cut with a hand sickle a small plot 
of wheat, how boys and men stacked the sheaves on camels and 
took them several miles to a thrashing floor, how that thrashing 
method caused a loss of a fifth or more of the grain. But then he 
added, "If farm machinery were introduced, the peasants would have 

Strange Lands and Friendly People 

more leisure time. Think of the trouble they would get into then 

Another spoke up and said that ownership of land had nothir 
to do with productivity, that in Syria the larger the estate the mo: 
efficient the management of it, that the answer to the land problem 
was the introduction of scientific methods by those owners wh 
had the necessary skill and imagination. 

Still another added in general agreement with the others th; 
before land was distributed to the peasants each peasant shoul 
demonstrate that he was worthy to be a landowner. 

Most of this group were business and professional men represem 
ing a conservative point of view. They doubtless shared the sent 
ments of the dominant political groups in the region. 

Beginning in March of 1949, however, one loud and powerft 
voice had proclaimed a different attitude. It was the voice of Husr 
Zayim, dictator of Syria, who had seized control of the governmen 
in a bloodless coup. Whether he was in earnest about his politics 
program, I do not know. Damascus seemed to be divided in opinion 
But if he were serious, he was a grave threat to the status quo. H 

redistribution of the land to the peasants 

slum clearance 

low-cost housing 

emancipation of women 

resettlement of 100,000 Arab refugees from Palestine on Syriar 

a tax program to carry forward these projects. 

He also seemed to be working for peace with Israel. That at least 
was what he professed to be doing. And he had taken one step in 
that direction by signing an armistice. 

I tried to see Zayim to make up my mind about his sincerity, 
but he was moving around too fast for me to catch up with him. 
I did, however, see his Prime Minister, Muhsin Barazi. Barazi seemed 
smooth and suave and full of intrigue. I did not get from him a feel 
ing of sincerity. He pressed me to help Syria get from the United 
States equipment for a modern army. 

"We promise not to use it against Israel," he said. "We must 
be strong against the threat of Russia to the north." 

But there did not seem to be in Barazi s mind the idea that the 
real show of strength against Russia would come in a social revolu- 


tion that effectuated a program of rural reconstruction such as 
Zayim talked about. 

Within the month Zayim and Barazi were dead. They were 
seized and executed by the Army on the morning of August 14, 
1949. A new government took over. Up to then the Damascus radio 
had been broadcasting everlasting praise and tribute to Marshal 
Zayim. Suddenly it switched its theme; now Zayim was everything 
wicked in the book, from traitor on down. 

The Moscow radio blared at length in Arabic about the episode 
and offered as usual a conspiratorial theory involving the democ 
racies: "We now know why and by whose hand these acts were 
accomplished. In order to grasp this case we have carefully ob 
served whom this Syrian event displeased and whom it pleased. To 
decide this subject we do not need to look into the simple faces 
of the Syrian people, but perhaps the countenance of some diplomat 
in London, Washington and Paris must be scrutinized. Everything 
is read in those countenances. In some of the British faces a smile 
of satisfaction; in some French faces, regret and nervousness; and in 
American faces, disappointment and displeasure. The Britishers con 
sider themselves masters of the Arab countries. French capital lost 
its influence in Syria, but is hopeful by serving the Americans who 
are attempting to oust the Britishers from these countries and re 
place them, to remain in its position*" 

Many believe that Soviet propaganda even to this day. The British 
are readily suspected in the Middle East. Some say Zayim and 
Barazi were shot because the Zayim government was too friendly 
with Israel. That also is too easy an answer. Zayim had given 
asylum to a political refugee from Lebanon and then in a moment 
which many thought to be treacherous, returned the man to Lebanon 
to be shot. Zayim had become, like most dictators, a braggart bold 
and boastful in his attitudes. The common Syrian explanation is 
that he was therefore shot because he was dangerous to the nation. 
That was the excuse. 

The truth is that Zayim s announced program struck at the heart 
of the feudal system that holds Syria in its grip. The Moslem clergy, 
the landowners, the industrialists, and the die-hard Anti-Zionists 
were aligned against his reforms. Zayim s political strategy and 
astuteness were not equal to that revolutionary occasion. 

But, the ideas which Zayim espoused live on in the Arab world. 

29. Jebel el Druze 

WE LEFT Damascus by car one hot bright morning, heading south 
by west for Soueida, Amman, and Jerusalem. In a few minutes the 
greenery of Damascus was behind us. The black-surfaced road lay 
lite a snake across the blistering plain of Bashan. There was not 
a tree as far as the eye could see, 

The plain was basalt Dark lava rocks, from the size of eggs to 
the size of barrels, were scattered across the fields. Some had been 
piled to form fences. Others lay on the surface. The ancient wooden 
plows still used to work the land plowed around them. They 
stood like islands in a sea of skimpy crops that stretched to the 

The crops were mostly sorghum, wheat, melons, and sunflowers. 
This is an area of dry-farming. There had been no rain for two 
months. We stopped briefly at the small village of Sheikh Meskine. 
There was no shade except inside the flat-roofed, ill-smelling mud 
hots. The vilkge had not even a shrub or a tuft of grass. A searing 
son had scorched the earth and left it brown. The stone walls on the 
roadside had a furnace heat in them. Beyond the walls camels were 
being unloaded of the sheaves which they had brought to the 
thrashing floors. Their masters stopped work and stared their faces 
dark and inscrutable but marked with the almost unendurable 
effort of producing food and raising families on arid land carrying 
the marks of centuries of abuse. 

The plain of Bashan gets rockier and rockier as it approaches 
Jebel el Druze the Mountain of the Druzes. This is a low-lying 
barren ridge, perhaps two thousand feet high. It lay ahead of us to 
the south and seemed from a distance to be no more than a drab 
foothill. It is historic ground, where the Argob and Geshur 
are located. This is where Absalom fled after the murder of 

Jebel el Druze 

his brother (II Samuel 13:38). It has been a refuge for countless 
others who fled before the law. A great many Druzes settled here in 
the nineteenth century, coming from Lebanon where they writhed 
under the rule of the Turk. 

The Druzes have always been a religious minority in the Arab 
world. Today they constitute about 4 per cent of Syria s three and 
a half million people. Their resistance to authority has made them 
a thorn in the side of almost every government of Syria. Their 
record as warriors is renowned. They sided with Islam and fought 
the Crusaders. They have massacred Christians and warred on divers 
groups. In much of this especially in the killing of Christians 
they were inspired and directed by the Turks who ruled Syria for 
four hundred years. In other instances as in case of their resistance 
to the French in the 1920 $ they were inspired by intense na 
tionalism. And when it came to war with the Bedouins, they fought 
in self-defense. 

The Bedouin and his flocks have walked this region together for 
centuries. Bashan used to be covered with oaks. They are mostly 
gone. A Bedouin never leaves a tree standing. He cuts it down by 
setting it on fire; then he waits for the wind to blow it over. He uses 
that extravagant method even though he wants only a few boughs 
for his cooking. If there were only one tree left in a basin, he 
would destroy it. The Bedouin figures that if he doesn t appropriate 
it, someone else will. 

It was the lack of conservation that bled Bashan and more. 
There has been great insecurity in its civilizations. There was con 
tinuous raiding and pillaging. Men took what they saw. There was 
no incentive to build and construct for the morrow. Men lived 
from day to day. The earth and soil were resources to plunder, If 
one did not take today, the raiding Bedouins or the corrupt Turks 
would take tomorrow. It paid to cut trees, for the Turks placed a 
tax on them. Thus irresponsible management of water, topsoil, 
grass, and trees became the norm. 

The Druzes who bordered the Bedouins on the west were con 
stantly armed. They even took guns to the fields. 

We were the guests of the Druzes at Soueida, a clean, pleasant 
town of about ten thousand. We had been invited by Said Taky 
Deen, who spoke for Sultan Pasha Atrash, the head of the Syrian 
tribe. The Governor of Jebel el Druze, at whose office we reported, 

I $8 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

took us on a tour of the city, and afterward gave us lunch in the 
Governor s mansion. The menu consisted of the following: 

Djaje mihshi (Roast chicken stuffed with a dressing made of rice, 
ground lamb meat, spices). 

Koosa and lebxn (Koosa is squash, stuffed with rice, ground lamb 
meat, and chopped parsley. Leban is milk which when processed thickens 
as it sets). 

Kibbeh (Kibbeh is made from finely crushed wheat, ground lamb 
meat, and spices. This is pounded together until the mixture has an 
even texture, and then fried). 

Rice and yakni (Yakni is prepared by boiling okra until softened. The 
okra is then drained. Onions browned in olive oil and tomatoes are then 

Hurrnnos bithiini (Chick peas with sesame. Chick peas mashed and 
mixed with hummos which is diluted and mixed with olive oil, lemons, 
and parsley). 

Salad (Mixed vegetables with a dressing made of olive oil and lemons 
and highly seasoned). 

Mixed assorted fresh vegetables (Olives, fried eggplant, tomatoes). 

Dessert (Fresh fruit and baklawa. Baklaiva is a pastry made of thin 
layers of crust with a filling of crushed nuts and honey). 

After lunch we retired to the drawing room where Turkish 
coffee was served. Then we received the dignitaries of the tribe. 
To understand what transpired at the reception a bit of Druze 
history must be given. 

The Druzes constitute a secret, religious sect. Syria and Lebanon 
have been their home ever since they first appeared late in the 
tenth century near Mount Hermon. Always an agricultural people, 
not interested in industry or commerce, they are organized today 
as they were in the beginning in a feudal society. Villages are 
under the control of local sheikhsa word which, as I have said, con 
notes old age, seniority, respect. The sheikhs are in turn under one 
or more amirs or princes. Land is for the most part owned by the 
members of the hierarchy. 

The Druzes consider that Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and all 
other religions were forerunners of Druzism. Adam, Noah, Abra 
ham, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed were all prophets. But to the 
Druzes Mohammed was Lucifer. For them Al-Hakim (A.D. 996-1020) 

Jebel el Druze 

is the Messiah. The name Druze comes from Darazi, the first 
missionary of the faith. 

The Druzes have predestination as a philosophy of life. There is 
little place for the free will of man. They also believe in the trans 
migration of souls. When a Druze dies, he is supposed to be 
reborn in China. Little actually is known, however, of the Druze 
religion. It is part of their religion that nothing of it should be 
divulged or promulgated. The door of their religion was indeed 
closed in A.D. 1031. This step was taken in order to save the Druzes 
from being delivered into the hands of their persecutors by con 
verts with subversive tendencies. Since that date no one has been 
admitted to the Druze nation; nor has anyone been allowed to 
leave it. 

The Druze religion thus became wholly hereditary. No outsider, 
and few insiders, know the secrets of this religion. Some of the 
theology is transmitted secretly by word of mouth to succeeding 
priests or wise men. Moreover, the words in the religious texts of 
the Druzes have double meanings that only a select few know. 

The art of dissimulation is a legitimate technique. The Druze 
religion was fashioned with an eye to survival in a hostile world. 
Hence a Druze may profess any other religion as a means of protect 
ing himself. He may in appearance and profession be a devout 
Moslem or Catholic. But at heart he is always a Druze, forever a 
member of a homogeneous group, bound by religious and fraternal 
ties, tied to a feudal system of government, united to an indis 
soluble family. 

The feudal system of the Druzes of Jebel el Druze was imposed 
by the Hamdans Kurdish families who are part of the tribe. But 
since the Atrashes ousted the Hamdans last century, the social and 
political structure in Jebel el Druze has been democratic. The Jebel 
is divided into Makarin (districts) and each district is governed by 
the largest family. Party politics are family politics. Whenever an 
emergency arises the unity of the various districts and families is 
achieved by the religious leaders. In ordinary administrative matters 
the priests or wise men never interfere except where a religious 
question arises. Discussions on public matters are usually conducted 
at the Madafaat equivalent to our town meetings, and complete 
social equality is maintained there. 

In nine centuries there has on the whole been little change 

2OO Strange Lands and Friendly People 

in die Druze way of life religious, political, social, and economic. 
But the Druzes do not live in a vacuum. They are part of the 
dynamics of the Middle East. Their hopes and aspirations are tied 
to those of all Arab peoples. And so it is that Russian propaganda, 
the advances in Israel, and the contagion of liberal ideas sweeping 
the world have penetrated the feudal walls of Jebel el Druze. 

After the luncheon at Soueida we received the dignitaries of the 
Druze tribe in the drawing room of the Governor s palace. The 
first to enter were five Druze priests or wise men. Taky Deen intro 
duced my son and we shook hands with each one. The priests then 
sat opposite us on a sofa. I expressed our gratitude for the hospitality 
of the tribe, and for our luncheon at Soueida. 

The spokesman for the priests replied simply and formally. He 
spoke feelingly of the happiness of the Druzes in having us as their 
guests, expressing the hope we might stay longer. As he spoke I 
studied the five faces. It is written in the religious code of the 
Druzes, *The Mind is the Pen which writes upon stone, and the 
stone which it writes upon is the Soul." The souls of these Druze 
priests shone through their countenances. 

Seldom have I seen such aesthetic, spiritual faces as two of them 
had, Mr. Justice Cardozo had such a face. So did the Rev. William 
Robinson of the Congregational Church at Yakima. So did Father. 
The faces were faces of dedicated men. I had seen preachers with 
the harassed look of a bedeviled sergeant of a police force. These 
men were serene inside. They had deep and everlasting devotion to 
some idea or ideal which to them was more precious than life. 

The next delegation numbered about a dozen. They represented 
the ruling families of the Druzes. They were mostly men in their 
thirties and forties. Their faces carried the mark of the sun and 
wind. Their hands were firm and gnarled. 

After expressing our gratitude for their hospitality, I went on to 
say that ever since I had reached Damascus I had felt strangely 
at home. First, there was the similarity between the setting of 
Damascus and that of Yakima each an oasis in the desert. The 
great plain of Bashan was much like the sagebrush area of the Inland 
Empire in eastern Washington. The basalt formations were similar. 
The treeless expanse of eastern Washington the area to be irrigated 
by Grand Coulee Dam snight well be Bashan. 

Jebel el Druze 201 

"That is why I have felt a bit homesick in your country," I 

The spokesman for the group expressed his pleasure that this land 
had such a strong appeal to me. Then he asked, "Have you seen the 
Arab refugee camp at Soueida?" 

The refugee camp at Soueida had at the time about a thousand 
refugees. It was located in warehouses on the outskirts of the town* 
Families partitioned off space about eight by twelve by building 
low walls of stone or of boxes or packing cases. There was no 
plumbing; and water had to be carried from the village. 

My son and I had visited the camp earlier in the day. A group of 
a hundred or more gathered around us. 

"Are you Americans?" 


"Well, help us get back home. . . . We have nothing to do 
here. . . . What has happened to my vineyard in Palestine? . . . Can t 
we be given new homes in Syrk? . . . There are no schools for oar 
children here." 

These were the kind of questions and problems put to os by the 
refugees. They flooded my mind as the spokesman for the Drazes 
asked me if we had visited the camp, 

I told him we had visited it. 

"Then you will understand the feelings of the refugees. This land 
of ours makes you homesick. Think how homesick these poor 
refugees are." 

With that he proceeded with an exposition of the refugee prob 
lem a denunciation of the Jews, a criticism of the United States, 
a plea that these "innocent victims" be given justice, a warning that 
unless they were given justice they would grow as "festering sores" 
in the Arab world. 

The statement he made was a forceful, polished plea by a good 
advocate of the Arab side of the controversy. When he had fin 
ished, he expressed the wish that Bill and I would stay with his 
people for a while and not rush away as we were scheduled to do 
that evening. 

When we returned from die courtyard where we had been 
photographed with these men, another group awaited us. They too 
numbered about a dozen. They were young men in their thirties. 
Their spokesman was a handsome chap tall and lean, well-pro- 

202 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

portioned, with sharply chiseled features. There was an earnest, 
sincere expression on his face. 

I was to learn from him the meaning of an old Arabic expression, 
"The beauty of man lies in the eloquence of his tongue." 

After we had exchanged formalities he made a speech. It lasted 
perhaps fifteen minutes. At first he spoke quietly and slowly. As he 
progressed, his delivery quickened, the volume of his voice in 
creased. There was now great emotion in his speech; it welled up 
from deep within him. 

Arabic is a guttural language, like German. It comes from the 
throat, not the lips. Often it sounds harsh. But the speech we were 
hearing had the fullness of the organ in it. The rhythm of it rose 
and fell. It would build to a great crescendo and then fall like 
something soft and liquid. Then it would start building again. It 
would have the roar of the wind through forests of pine and fir. 
It would drop to a whisper as soft as an echo from a distant cliff. 
There was tragedy, pathos, suffering in the voice. It was a rhythmic 
outpouring of a soul. It was a symphony from the vocal chords. 

I didn t have the least idea what the man said. But it was the 
most moving, eloquent speech I ever heard. It carried an important 
message one that would shake the frame even of a strong man. 
There were tears in many eyes when he finished. 

I had experienced what is known in the Arab world as "lawful 
magic." No language seems capable of exerting such irresistible in 
fluence over listeners as Arabic. In this melodious tongue it is easy 
for a master to stir an Arab audience to the depths. 

When Taky Been turned to me after the speaker had finished, 
I noticed that he too was filled with emotion. He wiped his eyes 
and said, 

"Mr. Justice, that is the most beautiful Arabic I ever heard. 
I must apologize to you, for I cannot possibly translate it as he 
spoke it." 

I asked him to summarize it as best he could. 

Taky Deen sat in silence for a moment and then said: 

This man traced for you the history of the Arab people. Con 
queror after conqueror overran the land. They exploited the re 
sources cutting trees, permitting overgrazing, wasting the water 
resources. They also brought graft and corruption into high places. 

Jebel el Druze 203 

Government in this country has long been a heavy, oppressive yoke 
on the people. 

"The people, moreover, are held under a vicious feudal system. 
They do not own the land. They pay excessive rent. They have few 
doctors, few hospitals, and not many schools. They are too ignorant 
to help themselves." 

Taky Deen stopped for a moment and turning to me said, "He 
made one statement that he hopes you will remember above all the 
others. He said the French when they ruled Syria took many acts 
of vengeance toward us Druzes. They jailed and shot us. They 
violated our women. They raided our villages and carried off our 
stock. They sat up all night trying to figure out ways and means 
of breaking our resistance, of subduing us. But the French were 
not smart. There was one way and only one way they could have 
subdued us. They could have closed our schools. That would have 
been the greatest punishment of all." 

Taky Deen went on to say that this man s plea was for education. 
He wanted teachers for his people, teachers who would show them 
how to plow, irrigate, and farm; teachers who would show them 
how to prevent disease, how to cure illness; teachers who would 
show them how to read and write and become intelligent citizens 
of a democracy. 

"Teachers are what we need education, not money. Only educa 
tion will raise my people from the poverty and ignorance in which 
you see them." 

The speech of this Druze had not only moved me emotionally; it 
had expressed a philosophy with which I had been associated in the 
States. I felt a kinship with the man. I felt it so keenly that I walked 
across to him and grasped him warmly by the hand. As we filed out 
to have our pictures taken with this group, Taky Deen added: "This 
is the Populist element of the Druzes. They are working hard within 
their tribe to bring about the reforms of which this man speaks." 

A further word about the Populists is necessary. 

The largest family in Jebel el Druze has for years been the 
Atrashes. This family is headed by Sultan Pasha el Atrash, who 
led the revolt of 1925 against the French. When that revolt failed, 
the Sultan left Jebel el Druze for Saudi Arabia. Among those who 
accompanied him were outstanding leaders of Jebel el Druze, the 
most famous being Hamzi el Darwishe. Those who remained among 

204 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

the leaders in Jebel el Druze were the relatives of Sultan Pasha. 
They allied themselves with the French mandate, and monopolized 
most of the administrative, judicial, and military jobs of the Jebel. 

The Populist movement gained its impetus when the Atrash 
family allowed only members of that family to become candidates 
for parliament. The other families among the Druzes, members of 
the Socialist and Syrian Popular parties, mobilized their arms and 
fought the Atrashes. The Populist movement won, and then in turn 
denied the Atrashes the right to any political office. In the election 
to the Syrian National Parliament the Populist candidates won the 
four seats allotted to them. 

Jamil Abou Assali from Soueida was the prime mover of the 
Populist revolt. We met him at Soueida the only Druze there 
who was dressed in European clothes. His thin, eager face watched 
us closely. He furnished the dynamics to the Populist cause. 
Since we saw him in 1949, he was killed in an automobile accident. 

Leaders of the Popular movement are either men who fought 
with the Sultan against the French or young intellectual Druzes. 
Of the leaders, Hamzi el Darwishe was the best known. He grew 
to be the strongest fighter among the Druzes. His stories are like 
legend; but the Druzes say they are true. In the battles in which he 
engaged he used to take his sword and with one stroke cut a horse 
and a man in two, four pieces falling to the ground. And before 
battle he used to break a sword by swinging it, a device he used 
to make the men enthusiastic. But Darwishe also died in the winter 
of 1949. He too was killed in an auto accident. 

After the reception at Soueida was over we drove about ten miles 
to the small, desolate, treeless village of Krai to call on the famous 
Sultan Pasha. This man now in his early fifties was, as I have 
said, a great hero of the resistance movement against the French, and 
had helped Lawrence take Damascus in 1918. His deeds, like those 
of Hamzi el Darwishe, have a heroic quality that makes them almost 
unbelievable. It was Sultan Pasha who charged on horseback a 
French tank. He charged it alone; and he captured it. The tank crew 
was apparently too bewildered to act. The Sultan drew up to the 
tank, jumped off his horse, opened the door, and tossed in a hand 
grenade. The French Foreign Legion to their sorrow came to know 
the cunning and daring of this man. 

Jebel el Druze 205 

The Sultan greeted us at the door of his simple cottage on the 
edge of Krai and ushered us into a spacious and rather barren 
drawing room that looked out on a treeless, rocky expanse of land. 
He has the face of a stoic immobile without a trace of expression. 
He is a man of few words, and conversation was difficult. After 
we had finished our Turkish coffee he asked if he might show me 
his horses. 

We went outside and he ordered two Arabian horses to be led 

out from the stables in the rear. They were beautiful stallions 

gentle, well-proportioned, with small legs and feet and husky shoul 
ders. He walked around them, caressing them gently and speaking to 
them as a father would to a child. 

Our visit was coming to a close. It was late afternoon and Bill 
and I had to drive to Amman, capital of Trans-Jordan, that night. 
It was only seventy-five miles, but we would have to pass through 
the Syrian and Trans- Jordan army lines, which were apt to be time- 

I turned to the Sultan and told him how much we had enjoyed 
our day with the Druzes. I added, "The Druzes, you know, are 
well-known in America. Your people are particularly remembered 
for their courage and bravery, for their ability as warriors." 

The Sultan replied instantly, "I know that is true. But I wish we 
were remembered differently." 
"In what way?" 

"I wish we could go down in history not as warriors but as 

He took me by the arm and led me to the edge of a field. It was 
a rocky stretch of ground out of whose thin soil the Druzes had to 
make their living. 

"See what poor land my people have," he said. "To farm it they 
should know modern methods. They do not know about fertilizers, 
about plowing do you call it contour plowing? 

"They do not know about co-operatives about financing and 
marketing their products. They may have a good crop and be 
robbed by merchants in Damascus. My people are smart but they do 
not know these things. They need to be taught." 

He touched on most of the subjects which the U. S. Agricultural 
Mission covered in its report on Syria in 1946 matters which to 
date had received no attention in Soueida. 

206 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

Turning to me he said, "Can t America teach my people? We 
don t want America s money. We want merely to learn how to live. 
If my people knew that, then they could take care of themselves. * 

As I turned to go he said, "Show my people how to do all these 
things. Then they will be able to teach others. Teachers are more 
important than warriors." 

30. Kemal Djumbhtt 

EL MOUKHTARA is a small Druze village in southern Lebanon about 
halfway between Beirut and Sidon. It sits high in the Lebanon 
Mountains, facing west to the Mediterranean. Its perch is a pre 
carious one, for the slopes run away fast, some at forty degrees. 
Mulberry, apple, and a variety of soft fruit trees grow on tier after 
tier of terraces that follow the contour of the range. Grapes and 
vegetables are planted in like fashion. Water brought many miles 
down the valley in a canal is fed ingeniously into these terraces on 
its way down to the village, where enough is left on arrival to run 
a power plant and to turn a grist mill. 

El Moukhtara has been the home of the Djumblatt family for 
three hundred years. The Djumblatt houses are its most prominent 
features. One is a lonely castle high on the ridge; two are halfway 
down, all commanding a broad sweep of the valley for miles and 
miles. Each is made of rock and looks from the distance like a fort 
that clings precariously to the mountainside. The rooms are spacious, 
with stone floors and high ceilings, and doubtless very draughty 
in winter. 

The head of the Djumblatt family today is the thirty-year-old 
Kemal, who is married to the beautiful May Arslan. She, an Arslan, 
and he, a Djumblatt, unite the two leading families of the Lebanese 
Druzes. Thus Kemal occupies a strategic position in their destiny. 

We came by car from Beirut to El Moukhtara. Kemal Djumblatt 
and the other leading Druzes of Lebanon were there to greet us. 
From the point where the road ends, wide stone stairs wind their 
way for perhaps one hundred feet up to the main floor and gardens 
of Kemal Djumblatt s house. Both sides of the staircase were lined 
with men and boys all Druzes. As we approached they started 
clapping and they never stopped until we reached the top. Their 


20$ Strange Lands and Friendly People 

clapping, echoing and re-echoing off the stone walls of the castle- 
like house, was so loud that I could not hear Kemal Djumblatt. 
The clapping continued in the garden until Mr. Djumblatt raised his 
hand. After he had introduced me it started again and was stopped 
only at his intercession. 

The priests or "wise men were there to greet us. I sat with them in 
an alcove while some of the men danced outside. A flute provided the 
music* These dancers, like Persian tribesmen, formed a line, each 
holding on to the other s waist or shoulders. They kicked, and 
bowed, and went through many gyrations, moving clockwise as 
they danced. There were no womenfolk of the Druzes present 
except Kemal s wife. Druze women, like most Moslem women, are 
not seen on such occasions. They dance, but only in private. No 
male eyes are allowed to observe them. At Jebel el Druze there had 
been no women present at any of the functions. May Djumblatt, 
educated in France and speaking English and French, was throwing 
off the old customs. She was the hostess at El Moukhtara. She 
bowed to convention only in one respect; she wore a veil over 
her hair and shoulders, though not over her face. 

Lunch w r as served buffet style. A whole calf had been roasted* 
Servants tore off slices with their hands and loaded our plates. We 
were surfeited with other delicious Arab food and ended with huge 
white grapes, crisp apples, Golden and Red Delicious, grown locally, 
and Turkish coffee. 

After lunch the several hundred guests assembled in front of an 
alcove off the garden and listened to speeches. Addresses of welcome 
were given; and I replied. Then Kemal Djumblatt introduced 
Ramiz Abi-Suab, a young man in his twenties who spoke of the 
principles and achievements of the Progressive Socialist party. 

Kami Djumblatt is its founder. A member of the Lebanon Par 
liament since 1943 and for a while Minister of National Economy, 
he is well-educated both in government and in religion. He rises 
at five o clock every morning, goes to the tower of his home high on 
the ridge above El Moukhtara, and sits in prayer and meditation 
for two hours. He is a devout man and somewhat of a mystic, 
greatly influenced by Hindu philosophy. The destiny of the Arabs 
in a fast-changing, revolutionary world is uppermost in his thoughts. 
He bas in fact dedicated his life to their welfare. 

He studied Marxism in Paris but was not convinced. Yet he 

Kemal Djumblatt 

believes that the "capitalistic phase" of society is passing and 
that a new form of economic, social, and political democracy 
must be designed. He gave this project many months of thought. 

In the winter of 1949 he organized the Progressive Socialist party 
in Lebanon. One of its sponsors describes its aims as follows: 

An economic democracy: bread and work, Justice and Freedom. 

A social democracy: neither right nor privilege without a correspond 
ing duty a society without classes. 

A political democracy: neither dictatorship nor anarchy, but an or 
ganized people s democracy. 

Every citizen is an owner. 

A worker is the partner of the owner of the enterprise, 
^The fatherland is a happy country: social security assured to all 
citizens, education accessible to everybody. 

The party sponsors socialization of a select group of industries, 
equality of men and women with respect to civil and political 
rights, compulsory voting, social security, universal education, hos 
pitals and clinics, a degree of socialized medicine, protection of water 
supplies, elimination of malaria, income taxes, industrialization pro 
grams, freedom of the press, formation of trade unions, an inde 
pendent judiciary, and dozens of other reforms, most of which have 
had a familiar ring in this country from the time of the elder La 
Follette to date. And not the least plank in the new party s plat 
form is: 

Partition of large landed properties into small lots and acquisition of 
these lots by tenants, farmers and workers in agriculture, the sales price 
being paid on long term installments. Abolition of the system of share 
croppers which is tied to medieval feudalism; encouragement of agricul 
tural co-operatives; establishment of a suitable system of agricultural 

It is this program that Kemal Djumblatt calls the Third Force 
a group of measures which reject the fanaticism of Soviet com 
munism and the unrestrained activities of private enterprise. 

His party has established rural health clinics in a few dozen 
villages where its members live. It has arranged medical service on 
an insurance basis for its members in the cities. In villages where the 
party is organized it is establishing libraries, tennis courts, swim 
ming pools, and football, basketball, and volleyball fields. Consumer 

zio Strange Lands and Friendly People 

co-operatives have been started in some villages. Marketing and 
credit co-operatives are planned. It is launching genuine collective 
farms at the villages of Btekhnay and El Moukhtara in Lebanon. 
And perhaps most important of all, Kemal Djumblatt s party cuts 
across all religious lines. Among the fervent men who talked, one 
was a Russian Orthodox; another was a Maronite. 

Kemal Djumblatt is a tall, thin, soft-spoken man. His high fore 
head, unruly black hair, deep-brown eyes, his long, delicate hands 
mark him as an intellectual. He speaks slowly. His responses to 
questions are thoughtfully methodical, not quick. He is the thinker, 
the teacher, the philosopher. How he will succeed as a political 
manager no one knows. But in the first few months of his political 
activities he fired some fifteen thousand young men and women 
with zeal and enthusiasm. Theirs is not a passion born of narrow 
nationalism or class hatred. It has a distinct moral flavor. To para 
phrase Kemal Djumblatt, their movement borrows from the philos 
ophy of Jesus, Mohammed, Confucius and Buddha all products of 
Asia. It is genuinely Asian. It is spiritually akin to every true 
democratic movement in the world. 

Kemal Djumblatt, with his wife May, is providing leadership of 
a revolution from within the feudal system itself. Their manage 
ment is high-principled and sincere. They Arabs of the highest 
aristocracy in the Arab world are devoting their lives to the im 
provement of the lot of the lowliest Arab. The Arabs who joined 
in this seminar held for my benefit at El Moukhtara had not only 
admiration for this courageous couple, but love and affection as well. 
It was evident in every gesture, in every word. 

During this long discussion my mind went back to an earlier 
visit I had paid to Beit-ed-Dine, a pretentious castle a few miles up 
the valley from El Moukhtara. The President of the Republic of 
Lebanon tendered my son and me a luncheon there in 1949. We ate in 
the garden, with the full sweep of the valley at our feet. Beautiful 
terraced gardens fall away from the castle on the west. Here grow 
many botanical wonders of the Middle East including one I espe 
cially liked the tiger s mustache, a coarse, broad-leaved grass that 
grows a few inches high and then droops. It looks a little like the 
squaw grass (bear grass) of our Pacific Northwest. 

After luncheon we sauntered through the historic castle. Of all 
the wonders we saw, one caught my eye. 

Kemal Djumblatt 211 

Emir Bachir Shahab, the ruler of Lebanon who built the castle near 
the beginning of the nineteenth century, had an Arab poet attached 
to his entourage. This poet would not only read the Koran to his 
master; he also wrote inspiring poems for him. The choice lines the 
ones which the Governor thought the best were carved in stone 
on the walls or written over the doorways of Beit-ed-Dine. As we 
moved through a spacious salon I asked that the inscription over 
one of the doors be translated. What it said came back to me as I 
watched the sensitive face of Kemal Djumblatt at El Moukhtara 
while he explained his political philosophy. The engraved words 
were these: "One hour of justice is worth three thousand hours of 

31. Siblene the Magic of Ownership 

ELON GILBERT and I stayed the night with the Djumblatts at El 
Moukhtara. Kemal Djumblatt s mother Nazira (since deceased) 
held court. Sheikhs and other dignitaries from Druze villages far 
and wide came to pay their respects. Nazira was of the older gener 
ation. She still wore the veil, for though she let it drop occasionally, 
she could not bring herself to reject it entirely, as does May. 
A princess by birth and by bearing, she spoke English and French 
fluently and was as witty and lively a conversationalist as I have 
known. It was always hers to command; and she ruled over El 
Moukhtara like a queen. 

But Kemal worried her. She wondered if he was not going too far 
and too fast with his political projects. Kemal also worries his wife s 
branch of the Druzes, the Arslans. They are wealthy, feudal lords. 
Kemal is decidedly out of favor with them because of his "radical" 
views. What upset both them and his mother the most was the 
thing Kemal did at Siblene. 

Siblene is a village of about two hundred people which overlooks 
the Mediterranean eight miles or so north of Sidon. Siblene is not 
on the coastal plain, which is rich with the topsoil carried from 
the mountains as a result of centuries of erosion; it sits in the foot 
hills. At that point the hills look as if they have been scrubbed and 
scoured of earth. As one approaches the village there seems to be 
nothing but bare limestone in sight. 

Siblene has been a Djumblatt village for at least two hundred 
years a Moslem not a Druze village. That is to say, a Djumblatt 
has been its owner, renting the land to Moslem tenants on a share- 
cropping bask Some of the families of these tenants have been 
there as long as the village. Most of the present tenants were indeed 
born there, as were their fathers and grandfathers. 


Siblene the Magic of Ownership 

Siblene from time out of mind has been a feudal estate, the tenants 
no better than serfs, eking out a bare existence on this rocky ridge, 
Siblene s olive and fig orchards have the mark of antiquity on them. 
Somehow or other wheat and barley were raised in small amounts 
on rocky slopes that appear to be not even good pasture land. 
Since there is no well or creek, all water must be carried from a 
spring ten minutes distant. 

Kemal Djumblatt distributed the land at Siblene to the tenants. 
He first asked the peasants to appoint a committee to value the land 
and to allocate the acreage among each of the families. When he 
received their report, he took one-third of the valuation they had 
placed on the land and sold it to them at that price on a ten-year 
installment basis. Each family ended by owning about four acres 
of land; and in each case it was the ancestral plot that his family 
had worked for generations. 

This distribution of land to the peasants was the bombshell that 
rocked the Arab aristocracy. And the fact that it was done by an 
aristocrat made it all the more ominous. I had heard reports of the 
effect that it had had among the peasants and wanted to see for 
myself. That was why I went to Siblene. 

At Siblene I saw young new apricot and peach orchards which 
the peasants planted just as soon as they became the owners. These 
orchards will treble the production of the land in a few years. 

Siblene had been a village of mud huts marked with squalor. The 
Djumblatts, as landlords and owners of the huts, had never done 
anything to modernize them. I saw a village transformed. In a few 
months after the peasants had acquired ownership of their homes a 
miracle had happened. The mud houses were now spic and span; 
yards were tidy; shrubs and flowers had been planted; new stone 
fences had been erected; there was fresh paint on the gates and 
doors. Curtains gave dashes of color to the windows. Siblene was 
now neater and brighter than any Arab village I had seen. 

Siblene had never had a schoolhouse. Within a few months after 
the peasants became the owners of the land they built a school- 
house a one-room affair reminiscent of our country schools. 

It had never occurred to the villagers to have a village recrea 
tional center. Under the feudal system which they had known the 
landlord had the initiative; their duty was to work for him; they 
had either no consciousness of demands which they could right- 

Strange Lands and Friendly People 

fully make or insufficient courage to press them. Once they became 
owners of the village they had a new viewpoint. This was now 
their true home; it was theirs to do with as they pleased. And so 
they made big plans for it. Their recreational center was no more 
than a large room in a building on the highest point of the ridge, 
but it provided a place for games, for reading, for small assemblies, 
as well as a gathering place for the elders when village affairs needed 

I walked among these people, talking with them, studying their 
faces. It was plain that something dramatic and deeply important 
had happened to them. I had first learned in Puerto Rico that a 
person moving from a house made of packing cases and sheets of 
tin into a house that was clean and modern underwent a transforma 
tion. Even his face was changed. I saw in Siblene something even 
more fundamental. I saw what magic widespread private ownership 
could produce. By reason of it a village had been remade almost 

People who own land have a stake in their community; they have 
a new sense of citizenship; they acquire a feeling of responsibility. 
And with it all comes an attitude of confidence, of dignity, of well- 
being. This showed on all sides at Siblene. A quiet social revolution 
had taken place. It seemed to me a dramatic illustration of how 
quickly the character of the Middle East could be remade if the 
peasants were permitted to inherit the earth on the installment 

I talked at length with Kemal Djumblatt about Siblene and its 
meaning in the Arab world, "The starting point for social recon 
struction in the Middle East," he said, "is land reform. All else 
flows from that." 

He went on to point out that only when the peasants are given 
a stake in their country can a truly democratic society be developed. 
Only then can any sense of citizenship and feeling of responsibility 
for community and national affairs be developed. Otherwise the 
peasant is bossed by some overlord, whose responsibility it is to 
determine what shall be planted, how the land shall be worked, and 
so on. In those matters the tenant has no voice. He never learns the 
lesson of initiative and enterprise. There are none of the rewards 
that increased effort can produce. The lack of incentive conditions 
all his activities. 

Siblene the Magic of Ownership 215 

Such is the peasant s fate. The facts of daily life teach it. Soviet 
propaganda hammers away at it. 

There are those in the Middle East who jeer at Kemal Djumblatt 
and say that he is merely a politician who seeks popular support 
by what he did at Siblene. He is a politician; but he is of a different 
breed than the Middle East has ever known. He has spiritual quali 
ties quite foreign to the political arena. He believes deeply and 
sincerely that the future of the Arab people depends on the quality 
of Arab leadership. That leadership has not been progressive; and 
prominent elements in it are to this day corrupt. That leadership, 
whether or not honest, has never yet fashioned for the peasants of 
that area a full-fledged democratic program such as Nehru is spon 
soring in India. Government in the Middle East has been of the 
landlords, by the landlords, for the landlords. 

"If we want to bring peace and security to our people we must 
adopt democratic methods," says Kemal Djumblatt. "Before we do 
that Arab leadership must cleanse itself." 

"Is that why you decided to distribute the land at Siblene to the 

"Yes, that was one of the reasons," he replied. "If I am to lead the 
Arab peoples to a life of social justice, I myself must be worthy. 
I myself must live that life." 

There was a long silence while he sat in meditation, his head 

"What was the other reason?" I asked. 

He lifted his face and turned to look at me. His eyes now had 
the fire of the Prophets. 

"The other reason that I distributed the land to the peasants was 
that it is right that he who works the land should own it." 

Cross, Star, and Crescent 

MOHAMMED is a name borne by more boys and men in the world 
than any other, including John and Bill. The most famous person 
who bore it was born in A.D. 571 at Mecca. To him was revealed 
the word of Allah; and he reduced that word to the Koran. He 
died in A.D. 632, leaving behind a militant religion and a group of 
fanatic followers who used the Book and the Sword to conquer 
the earth. 

Mohammed taught a new brotherhood the Brotherhood of 
Islam. "Know ye that every Moslem is a brother to every other 
Moslem, and that ye are now one brotherhood. It is not legitimate 
for any of you, therefore, to appropriate unto himself anything that 
belongs to his brother unless it is willingly given him by that 
brother." Through this creed he fashioned a Pax Islamica that united 
the faithful and inspired them to mighty conquests. 

In the decade or so after his death the little nation of Arabia con 
quered most of the then civilized world. Damascus fell after a six 
months siege. The Byzantines were routed at Yarmuk, a tributary 
of the Jordan. Arabian armies pushed north to Turkey and into 
Armenia and Georgia. They moved east and conquered Iraq and 
Persia. By A.D. 643 the Arabs were on the borders of India. They 
swept south and west, taking Alexandria and then most of Egypt 
and sweeping along the coast of North Africa to Tripoli. By 
A.D. 711 they were in Spain. On the first centennial of Mohammed s 
death Islam had reached the zenith of its temporal power. 

While that political empire lasted, a great civilization prospered 
under Islamic influence. Science, art and literature flowered. The 
political empire, however, lost its cohesiveness and unity after five 


218 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

centuries. The dynasties It established crumbled from within. Mon 
gol hordes attacked the empire on the east; Crusaders attacked it 
on the west. The world of Islam shrank. Yet even so it left millions 
of converts behind. Today one-eighth of the peoples of the earth 
believe that the Koran is the embodiment of wisdom and truth. 
Five times a day there is the call to worship: 

k ilaha ilia Uah: 
Mohammed rasulu Hah 
No god but Allah: Mohammed 
is the messenger of Allah 

Men from the Mediterranean to the Pacific, from Africa to Russia 
then get on their knees, face Mecca, and offer prayers to Allah. 

The brotherhood of Islam still persists. It is a brotherhood that 
draws no line at color, race, or nationality. In that sense it is 
universal. Islam draws only one line the line between the faithful 
and the rest of mankind. 

The Middle East is predominantly Moslem. In Persia and Iraq 
about 95 per cent of the population is of the Islamic faith; in Syria 
about 80 per cent. Only in Lebanon are the Christians in a majority. 
There they have a slim lead, perhaps 51 per cent. 

The Arab village is governed by a council. Representation is 
along religious lines. The religious vote is on the religious "party 
line." Thus Lebanon is divided into religious districts, which means 
that when delegates to the Parliament are chosen a Druze must be 
elected from one area, a Moslem from one, a Maronite from another, 
and so on. 

Religious differences cut deep from the Mediterranean to the 
Pacific. The region is filled with records of religious wars, persecu 
tions, and massacres. Less than a century ago, eight thousand Chris 
tians were massacred in Lebanon, eight thousand in Damascus. That 
history injects a subtle influence in all community and political 
affairs; it lurks in every dispute; it may whip up into a bloody affair 
between a Bedouin goatherd and a Christian villager; it is an in 
fluence in international politics. It was only the other day that 
Moslem and Hindu alike forgot Gandhi s teachings and fell on each 
other in bloody slaughter. The religious factor was responsible for 
breaking India in two and creating Pakistan. 

32. Hattin 

ONE OF the most effective speeches ever made in aU history was 
delivered by Pope Urban II at Clermont in the fall of 1095. It was 
the summons of the faithful to a war against the infidels; it was a 
plea to save the Christians of Asia Minor, Syria, and Palestine from 
persecution. The plea of Urban II to the faithful was "Enter you 
the road to the Holy Sepulcher, convert it from the wicked race, 
and subject it." It was a holy cause. "God wills it" was both the 
summons and the battle cry. The cross was the badge all wore. 
Jerusalem was the road of salvation. 

And so in 1096 about 300,000 soldiers marched east, headed over 
land for Jerusalem. Finally the Crusaders stood before it, praying, 
"O, Sepulcher, help us." They marched around the city, blowing 
their trumpets, as Joshua had done at Jericho. But the walls did not 
fall. Then started a month s siege. On July 15, 1099 under the blows 
of the broad sword and battering rams, Jerusalem fell. "God wills it." 
The Sepulcher was in the hands of the faithful. The Cross on which 
Christ was crucified was the standard carried into battle, as the 
remaining citadels of the Moslems along the Phoenician coast were 

From 1099 to 1187 Jerusalem was held by a series of Crusader 
kings, who built and maintained great commercial and financial 
empires in the region and fastened a heavy yoke of political and 
social feudalism on the country. The Crusaders in their daily lives 
set no noble Christian example for the Arabs. Moreover, the military 
hold they had on the region was tenuous; actually what they held 
were citadels and provinces scattered like islands through a vast 
region. An Arab leadership watched them closely and waited This 
was a leadership driven by a religious fanaticism. With them the 
jihad (holy war) was a duty. 


220 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

In preparation for my first trip to the Middle East I had reread 
the history of the Crusades and learned how much the Crusaders 
took from the culture of the East and how little they contributed. 
My reading had made the Crusaders more real to me and less roman 
tic than they had seemed to be in my youth. Their reality became 
even more vivid as I saw their castles and crosses in Lebanon and 
Israel and their handiwork at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in 
Jerusalem. But it was a strange coincidence that made me feel on 
intimate terms with them. 

In July, 1949, my son Bill and I were traveling down the Jordan 
Valley by car with Colonel Yochana Ratner of the Israeli Army, an 
able, middle-aged architect turned soldier in the cause of Zionism. 
We were approaching the Sea of Galilee (Gennesaret), In the days 
of Christ the region about the Sea of Galilee was heavily wooded 
oaks on the ridges; olives, sycamores, grapes, figs, walnuts on the 
slopes; palm trees at the lakeside which is about seven hundred feet 
below sea level. Today the hills around the Sea of Galilee are 
mostly bare. Only oaks, carob trees, plane trees, and oleanders in 
the ravines are clues to the thick forests that once covered these 
slopes. But about the only vegetation I saw this July day were 
thistles dry stalks about waist high. 

We first saw the Sea of Galilee from a distance. Hermon s snowy 
head looked down on us from the north. Below us to the south was 
the deep blue water, shimmering in the haze that overhung the hot 
land of Galilee that afternoon. The lake is about thirteen miles 
long and eight miles wide, a broad and deep expanse of the Jordan 
that flows in on the north and out on the south to its sepulcher 
in the Dead Sea. When we reached the lake, we stopped to sit in 
the shade of a clump of willows that grew near the water. An east 
wind was blowing; white caps showed on the water; a modest surf 
pounded at my feet. The gravelly shores were covered with smooth 
pebbles. Many were colored some flat, some round. They were 
the pebbles that were here when Christ walked these shores. I 
pocketed a few for a Sunday-school class back home. 

We had not passed very far on the west side of the lake when 
the source of the haze which overhung the valley became evident. 
A raging fire was racing up a valley that pours into the lake. 

"Thistles," said Colonel Ratner. And after a pause he asked, "The 
thistle fire is at Hattin. Do you recall Hattin?" 

Hattin 221 

I shook my head. He stopped the car, pulled out a map of 
Palestine, rested it on the hood and fender of the car, and traced 
some lines for me. 

"At Hattin Saladin defeated the Crusaders. Now do you re 

I still shook my head. So he went on to describe the battle. It took 
place July 3 and 4, 1187. 

Saladin, a Kurd, led the Arabs. He was probably the greatest of 
all Arab military leaders. He was also more than a general; he was 
a statesman of character and stature one of the great men of all 

At the beginning of the battle of Hattin Saladin seemed to be 
in a disadvantageous position. His back was to the Sea of Galilee. 
The Crusaders, under the command of Guy, King of Jerusalem, 
Raymond of Galilee, and Reginald of Kerak, for a reason not ex 
plicable left their camp near Tiberias, where they had good supplies 
of sweet water, and moved out to the heights of Hattin where they 
had neither water nor shade. The Christian soldiers were blistering 
hot under their armor; and the heat became unendurable when 
they ran out of water. Saladin capitalized on their predicament, 
giving them no surcease from attack during the long, grueling 
night of the first day of the battle. Then with an east wind blowing 
at his back Saladin set fire to the thistles. The fire roared up the 
heights, roasting and suffocating the Crusaders. The Cross was soon 
lowered by the Moslem horde. The Crusaders parched, bleary- 
eyed, scorched, singed, and burned were decisively beaten. The 
Moslem battle cry, "God is most great," "There is no other god 
but God" came in exultant shouts from the heights of Hattin, 

Seven hundred sixty-two years later almost to the day my son 
Bill and I saw a raging inferno, fed by thistles, once more sweep 
up Hattin. As I stood there watching the billowing smoke from a 
fire that raced faster than a man could run, the Crusaders became 
real men to me. I was with them and Saladin and relived for a 
moment the drama of Hattin. 

Jerusalem was the real prize won at Hattin. Saladin went on to 
take the Holy City. It fell on October 2, 1197 and Saladin tore 
down the Cross that stood on the Dome of the Rock. Where the 
Crusaders had shown cruelty, Saladin showed mercy. In 1099 the 
Crusaders had marched into Jerusalem killing every infidel they 

222 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

could lay their hands on. When Saladin took Jerusalem, he asked a 
large ransom for the lives of the Christian inhabitants, but he re 
leased free of charge all old people; and he also left unharmed 
people too poor to pay. For his philosophy, as spoken to his son, 
ran as follows: "Do the will of God, for that is the way of peace. 
Beware of bloodshed; trust not in that, for blood never sleeps," 

Then came Richard the Lion Hearted to reclaim Jerusalem. He 
landed 250,000 on the shores of Palestine. No warrior was ever 
braver. Richard s prowess on the field of battle filled the Arabs 
with terror. Near the end of the battle of Jaffa Richard rode out 
in front of the whole Moslem army, his lance uplifted. He trotted 
up and down, taunting the Moslem hosts, challenging any one of 
them, any ten of them, any hundred of them to come out and 
fight him. But so great was his reputation that none dared move 
against him* 

Yet in spite of Richard s victories along the shores, his troops 
never even saw the walls of Jerusalem. Richard was opposed by 
Saladin, who was too great a commander and leader to be undone 
by bravery alone. 

One day in 1192 when Richard was storming the plains below 
Jerusalem he sent word to Saladin, demanding the surrender of 
Jerusalem. Saladin s historic reply soon came: 

"Jerusalem is as much to us as it is to you, and has more value 
in our eyes for it was the place of the Prophet s night journey to 
Heaven and will provide the place of assembly for our people at the 
Judgment Day. Do not think that we will give it up to you. The 
land was ours in the first place, and it is you who have come to 
attack it." 

The conflict that Richard the Lion Hearted and Saladin did not 
resolve in 1 192 lives on. It is as sharp today as it was then. It is 
generated by forces deep in the emotions of men. Those forces can 
not be crushed. They survive the victories of armies and the raging 
fires of thistles. 

33. Josef and Fouda 

DAMASCUS is an oasis. It is surrounded by bleak and dreary foot 
hills on the north and west and on the east by a barren wasteland 
that stretches five hundred miles to Baghdad. In between lies a lush, 
circular garden thirty miles wide. The oasis yields annually thou 
sands of tons of apricots, wheat, barley, vegetables, and grapes and 
thousands of pounds of walnuts, hemp, apples, and other fruit. The 
surrounding country, though dry and barren and showing only 
camel thorn and licorice root in the summer, is a rash of colorful 
wild flowers and green grasses in the spring. Anemones, poppies, iris, 
and the purple-headed onopordons give streaks of color even to the 
desertic steppe on the east. But by July all the land surrounding 
the oasis is brown. A dry, stinging heat has seared and baked the 
ground, sapping the strength from every bit of stubble that the 
Bedouins leave behind. 

For centuries the Bedouins have roamed the desertic steppe to the 
east of Damascus with camels or sheep. Both the sheep men and 
the camel men are called Bedouins; but a Bedouin in the strict 
sense is a camel-breeding nomad and a member of one of a dozen 

Nomadism is a necessity in this barren land. Wells or springs 
are few and far between. The grazing is so sparse that one must 
keep on the move. The winters are cold, the summers hot. One 
moves north to the hills in summer and south to valleys in the 

A Bedouin seldom runs caravans for the transportation of goods. 
He is a breeder of animals principally camels, but sheep, goats* 
and horses as well which he sells in the markets. To the Bedouin, 
manual labor on farms or in town has been an ignominy. To 
call him a worker or fellah was to insult him. In recent years, how- 


22$ Strange Lands and Friendly People 

ever, the pinch of circumstances has changed that attitude. It has 
driven many of the poorest Bedouins into work for hire. 

The Bedouins in modern days are poor folks. The wealthiest 
sheikh these days probably has an income of no more than one 
hundred dollars a month; the poorest Bedouin has perhaps three 
dollars a month. He lives almost entirely on flour, rice, and dates. 
When grazing is good he will have milk and cheese from his goats 
and sheep. He will have a sack of wool and some butter to exchange 
on the market for coffee, olive oil, sugar, and perhaps tea. 

Yet this man poor and on the edge of starvation has the atti 
tude and philosophy of an aristocrat. By his standards there are two 
occupations fit for free men hunting and warfare. 

There is considerable game in the desertic steppe east of Damascus 
gazelles (fleet animals weighing around forty pounds with legs 
as small as dogs*), hares, black partridge, sand grouse, and a small 
species of the famous bustard. The Bedouin hunts chiefly with 
hawks and greyhounds. But his main preoccupation has always been 
war and raiding. He was a mercenary who would hire out to any 
ruler. He might forsake one ruler for another who paid a higher 
fee, but if he did so he had no traitorous intent; it was like a man 
in this country shopping around for a better job. 

The Bedouin liked it best when central authority was weak. Then 
he could make the raiding of adjoining tribes his profession. It 
was a sport in which there was honor and excitement. The Bedouin 
entered it with fanaticism. There was always the prospect of untold 
wealth in flocks of camels, goats, and sheep. There were long 
night marches across the desert and the attacks at dawn. There was 
the strategy of smaller raids waiting until a herd was far from 
camp and then driving it off before an alarm could reach the 
owner; or stealthily entering a camp in dead of night and running 
off a few horses or camels. 

If the venture was successful, the raiders became wealthy over 
night. If they were apprehended and failed, the consequences were 
not apt to be serious. If they survived the fighting and were cap 
tured, die chances were that the intended victims would then tender 
them a dinner, give them quarters where they could rest, and supply 
them with food for their return journey across the hot desert. Such 
is die chivalry of raiding. Raiding persists to a degree to this day, 
though k is on the decline. 

Josef and Fouda 225 

Formerly the Bedouins were the sole masters of the desert. They 
alone had riding camels that could melt into the desert and travel 
days without water. The Bedouins alone knew every acre of the 
desert: the water holes, the wadis, the places where men and herds 
could hide. A man on horseback could not follow them many miles 
into this waterless wasteland. Hence the Bedouins were in command 
of the vast desert area, and collected tribute from travelers and 
from those who lived along the edge of the steppe, promising 
safety of passage and immunity from raiding. 

That monopoly of the Bedouins has been practically broken. 
Motorcars manned by high-powered rifles have put even raiding 
parties moving on fast camels within reach. The patrol cars have 
been particularly successful when manned by Bedouins, and 
Bedouins have been increasingly available for those jobs. The eco 
nomics of the desert has made work for the army and the police 
very attractive. 

But the bulk of the Bedouins are today as they were centuries 
ago. They are on the move free men owing allegiance only to 
their own tribe. They move as silently as the dawn; when the sun 
rises their night encampment is empty with no trace of their de 

At night one will see lights on the desert hundreds of miles from 
nowhere. The lights are from small fires built of camel chips, 
marking a Bedouin encampment. Here these camel men sit far into 
the night sipping their slightly bitter coffee from small cups. Around 
these fires plans for new raids are laid and the history of old 
ones retold. Much of the telling is in the recitation of poetry, for 
the Bedouins, though largely illiterate, have their poets and vener 
ate them. 

I have been among the Bedouins and learned something of their 
hospitality. Generosity may well be at its best among the desperately 
poor. In India I saw people on the edge of subsistence make such 
generous division of their meager food with a guest that they would 
go without for days. The same is true of the Bedouins. One of these 
nomads may own but one goat or sheep and be wholly dependent on 
it for milk and cheese. Yet for a guest a casual guest who comes 
as a stranger he will kill it and prepare a feast. This is a hearty 
hospitality a hospitality with abandon. The Bedouin also has 
other extremes of character. He is a cruel and ruthless person when 

226 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

it comes to killing. If he has his enemy in his grasp, he can sit 
on the man s chest and cut his throat out as easily as a New Eng- 
hnder can shuck an oyster and with the same unconcern. 

One evening in late August I returned to Damascus from a visit 
to some Bedouin encampments in the desert. The smell of the camels 
was on these people, for there is little water for bathing in the 
desert. It was still in my nostrils as I found the black asphalt high 
way that runs to the edge of this wasteland. It was dusk when I 
reached the outskirts of town. Here are large fields of grapes, 
each patch being marked by platforms on stilts platforms that hold 
tiny thatched houses. These are lookouts where watchers stay night 
and day when harvest is near to protect the crop against the 
Bedouins. As I passed, many farmers were climbing crude ladders to 
these platforms to start the night s vigil. 

I drove through the city and north along the highway that leads 
over the Lebanon Mountains to Beirut. I was headed for a tea 
house on the Barada. 

The rivers Barada (formerly called the Abana) and Pharpar are 
the life of Damascus. Damascus founded by the grandson of Shem 
and by many thought to be the Garden of Eden has had staying 
qualities that other cities lacked. Damascus was old when Rome was 
young. David captured Damascus; so did Alexander and Pompey. 
Wave after wave of the invaders swept over it and around it. They 
sacked and burned it and yet left it strangely untouched. Palmyra 
two days* ride east of Damascus was the home of Queen Zenobia. 
It was indeed a capital of splendor. Today it is a ghost. Baalbek 
across the Anti-Lebanon Mountains was built when Damascus 
was teeming with life. Damascus lives on, while Baalbek is lost in the 
mists of history. 

The staying cjuaJitks of Damascus have come from its two rivers. 

Long, long ago in the days of Elisha, Naaman was the King of 
Syria. Like the present-day rulers Naaman lived in Damascus. He 
was a leper who came to Elisha for a cure. Elisha said, "Go and 
wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, 
and then shalt be clean." (II Kings 5:10.) 

Natman eventually followed that advice and was cured. But his 
sateil reaction was ot*e of anger. He said, "Are not Abana and 
Pfatrpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? 
may I not wash in them, and be clean?" (II Kings 5: 12.) 

Josef and Fouda 227 

The Barada boils out of the limestone of the Anti-Lebanon Moun 
tains about fifty miles north and west of Damascus. Its water is 
clear and cold and carried by gravity flow through a system of 
canals into every house and garden of Damascus. In its lower reaches 
it is lined with cafes which hang on its edges under groves of 
willow and poplar. At one of these I stopped, 

A cool wind swept down the valley. My table was at the water s 
edge. The babel of tongues from adjoining tables where a few men 
smoked water pipes was drowned in the roar of the river. I was 
roused from my thoughts by a tall, dark young man standing by 
my side. He spoke English, and asked if I would permit him t 
join me. 

He was an Arab and his name was Josef. He was in his twenties 
thin, athletic-looking. His black hair was curly and combed straight 
back. His brown eyes had a troubled look and the thin line that 
marked his lips seemed grim and determined. I asked him why he 
seemed so downcast. He hesitated before replying and then said, 
"I have no one I can tell my problem to. You are a Christian. May 
I talk it out with you?" 

Then came Josef s story. He, like about 12 per cent of Syria s 
three and a half million people, was a Christian. Josef a Russian 
Orthodox was in love with Fouda, a Bedouin girl about nineteen 
years old. 

Bedouins are Moslems, but they have modified the standards set 
for Moslem women. The custom of the veil is not closely followed. 
In a Bedouin camp the women share in the entertainment of 
visitors, and enjoy a social freedom denied most other Moslem 

But as Josef learned, there are other Moslem practices which 
limit their freedom. As Josef described Fouda to me my memories 
of Bedouin girls came flooding back beautiful, untamed creatures^ 
with no mark of convention on them; wild in the sense that a doe is 
wild. Barefooted, wearing ragged skirts full and flowing and a red 
and white kerchief on the head. Eyes filled half with fear and half 
with eagerness for friendship. Fouda was such a girL Josef had first 
seen her when her father brought sheep out of the desert to graze 
above Damascus, crossing the highway not far from this cafe. When 
Josef stopped to stare, she ran like a gazelle and joined her father. 

Her face haunted Josef. He returned day after day, searching 

228 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

the slopes of the foothills for her. One evening he was rewarded. 
Fouda was carrying water from the river. They met in a grove of 
poplars. Thereafter they had several hurried, secret meetings that 
were fleeting seconds for Josef, who knew now that he was desper 
ately in love. Finally one night, while a southern moon rode high 
over Mount Hermon, Josef took Fouda in his arms. It was early 
morning when Fouda crept back to her family s encampment. It was 
a week or more later when they met again in the grove. Now she 
had bad news heartbreaking news for Josef. She could not marry 
him. She had discussed the matter with her mother, who had talked 
with a mullah in Damascus. The decision was clear. Marriage with 
Josef was out of the question. Fouda was a Moslem; Josef a Christian. 
If Fouda married Josef, it would be the duty of her father or 
brother to kill her. That was the law of Islam. "Nor marry 
[your girls] to unbelievers until they believe." On marriage a 
woman took the religion of her husband. Fouda would in Moslem 
eyes become a Christian if she married Josef. There was only one 
way to avoid the calamity. Would Josef become a Moslem? If so, 
all would be well. 

Josefs uncle had been a priest in die Russian Orthodox church. 
Josefs father and mother were devout, religious people. They had 
been raised in Damascus, where they were always a religious 
minority, in an environment that bred doubt and suspicion con 
cerning the designs of the Moslems. The Moslems were men whose 
swords were part of their religion. All who were not of their 
faith were infidels against whom the sword might be used in a holy 

Here in Damascus eight thousand Christians had been massacred 
kss than a century ago. Josefs father and mother had never for 
gotten that massacre. That was a holy war or jihad. There had 
been no jihad since 1914, and that a failure, but Josefs father 
feared the jihad might be used again any day or night. 

Josef himself shared these fears. They had indeed been inculcated 
in him since childhood. The idea of becoming a Moslem would 
never have occurred to him even in a fantasy. The religion was an 
alien one; its philosophy seemed to him raw and vulgar. Its creed 
Tiokted his Christian sensibilities. It was crass and crude, a hand 
maiden of force and violence. At least that was his belief. He had 
spent the torture of sleepless nights thinking about it ever since 

Josef and Fonda 22$ 

Fouda had given him the conditions of their marriage. His opinion 
remained the same; he could not embrace the alien religion with 
true fervor; his heart would never be in it Yet love of Fouda was the 
most important thing in his life. He would join the Moslem faith 
as a matter of form; he would sacrifice his scruples for love. 

These things he first talked over with Fouda; then he steeled 
himself and broached the subject to his father, Josef had difficulty 
in describing the scene to me. It was as if he had dealt his father 
a mortal blow. The news shocked the old man so deeply that he 
suffered a stroke. Josef, heavy of heart, brought the word to Fouda. 
They sat in the poplar grove discussing their fate while another 
southern moon rode a high arc above the Anti-Lebanons. Fouda 
broke a long silence with the words, "Josef, you must not hurt 
your father more. I will become a Christian." 

"But you will be killed?" 

"We will flee." 

"Where can we go? Before we could get a passport the terror of 
the Bedouins would be on us." 

While Josef talked, I munched the large, sweet pistachio nuts 
that flourish in the Middle East. Now the waiter brought green 
English walnuts cracked and ready to eat except for the thin skim 
that covers the meat It had been ninety degrees in the sun that day; 
now the temperature was under sixty degrees. A chill wind swept 
down the Barada, whipping the willow trees that line its banks and 
swinging the overhead cord of electric lights to make weird shadows 
dance across the garden where we sat 

Josef, too wrought up to eat, toyed with the nuts. His face re 
vealed the torture of die decision that plagued his mind. There 
was a silence of perhaps five minutes. At last he lifted his eyes. 
They had an imploring look that asked for release from agonizing 

"You are a stranger," he said. "But you are a Christian. You have 
understanding, I think. Tell me, what should I do?" 

34. "Thy Faith Hath Made 
Thee Whole" 

ONE DAY in and near Damascus I had some experiences that caused 
the memory of a host of Sunday-school lessons to tumble through 
my mind in colorful and dramatic fashion. I had gone down to visit 
the bazaars, which like most markets of the Middle East are 
under covered streets and composed of numerous stalls packed close 
together, There are sections for goldsmiths, silversmiths, copper 
smiths, candymakers, shoemakers, textile workers, woodworkers, 
and the like. 

These bazaars have a strange fascination for me. There are the 
mixed smells of spices, candy, nuts, fruit, tobacco, and leather, the 
cries of the stall holders, the sound of hammers striking metal, 
the hum of a thousand tongues, and people of many races dressed 
in colorful costumes who pour silently and endlessly through the 
dimly lighted ways. At frequent intervals along this covered street 
are doors which open on courts where the caravans or trucks are 
unloaded. The doors are heavy wooden affairs faced with metal and 
about fifteen feet high. In each door is a smaller door about three 
feet high. These small doors are designed for the passage of men 
and made small enough so that a camel cannot enter. They are 
the "eye of the needle." "It is easier for a camel to go through 
die eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the king 
dom of God." (Mark 10:25.) 

The main thoroughfare of the bazaar which I visited in Damas 
cus is a street famous in the Bible. It is "the street which is called 
Straight." (Acts 9: 1 1.) Mark Twain said that that expression was the 
oee facetious comment in the Bible. The street, about twenty feet 
in width, is far from straight. It wobbles in its course like any 
tral that a calf will make in a meadow. 


"Thy Faith Hath Made Thee Whole" 231 

This was the street that Paul had often walked. The story is 
told in Acts of how he came to Damascus with hatred in his heart, 
bent on ridding the city of the Christians he despised. But before 
he reached the city he was stricken; there was a great light and a 
voice which even the soldiers who were with Paul heard. Paul fell 
to the ground blinded, and when he arose his mission was different. 
He went on to Damascus now, however, to convert more people 
to the doctrine of brotherly love. 

But because of his past record, the Christians did not trust Paul, 
and plotted to kill him. He escaped at night, lowered in a basket 
over the wall of Damascus, and then hid among the rocks of the 
dreary plain that extends on the south until his pursuers gave up the 

The walls of the old Damascus still stand. We went out through 
the east gate and around the outside to the south gate, where Paul 
made his escape. I went inside the gate and examined the walls. 
They are massive things about thirty feet thick and eighty feet 
high. They would be formidable even to modern artillery. 

Then I stood across from the gate under shade of some poplar 
trees bordering a field of sorghum. This was a morning of such 
dazzling sunlight that the yellowish walls of old Damascus gave off 
heat waves. I stood for a moment lost in my thoughts of Paul. 

His example I thought had meaning for democrats today if we 
too will only keep the faith. We are filled with apprehension be 
cause the totalitarian world grows larger and larger while the 
democratic shrinks. The democratic countries where real freedom 
of thought and expression is known become indeed more and more 
like islands in a world of tyranny. Dictatorship, Russian style, 
promises to hold the great bulk of the people of the world in its 
grip. Because of this we are apt to take a counsel of despair. 

There is no hope, we hear, to check this gargantuan growth of 
tyranny no hope except through war. But Paul had been faced 
with a prospect even more dismal There was then no spot on the 
globe offering any haven or refuge, comparable to what the democ 
racies offer today. Paul had no friendly base of operations. In the 
days of Paul Judaism was a militant, missionary faith. It was sacri 
legious to put the word of Christ against the law of Moses. Before 
his conversion Paul had been active in persecuting Christians. Now 
Paul was the persecuted. But he always maintained the initiative. 

232 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

Under regimes that were hostile and suspicious he spread the faith 
throughout Asia Minor, Macedonia, and the islands of the Mediter 
ranean. He was mobbed and flogged, driven from cities under threat 
of death, persecuted and jailed. Finally he was beheaded in Rome in 
the first of the Christian persecutions under Nero, shortly after he 
had written "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, 
I have kept the faith." (II Timothy 4:7.) 

Elon Gilbert and I talked of these things. And as we turned to go 
these were the questions in our minds: Have we of the West lost 
our faith in everything but dollars and military might? Have we 
forgotten that the most powerful weapons are ideas? Why do we 
not preach the gospel of freedom and justice in the villages of Asia? 

We went by car south and west of Damascus. The villages 
we saw often rested on the edge of beautiful olive or walnut 
orchards, but they themselves were usually miserable. 

Squalor in the Middle East is like squalor in India. A fecal odor 
hangs over the village. Filth is fried daily under a burning sun. It 
cooks up into a permanent stench. 

The reasons for this are not many. The outhouses are shallow af 
fairs and often are forsaken for the yard or field. The drainage of 
waste water from the houses is in open canals. The canals get clogged 
and stopped up and the water stands for days in the open, an un 
covered cesspool. Control of flies and other simple sanitary measures 
are not known or understood. 

One summer will see fifteen generations of flies, carrying dysen 
tery and typhoid. They cling like lice to people. We stopped at one 
village where I saw little children whose faces were matted with 
flies feeding on open sores. Older children had ringworms on their 
faces as big as saucers. There was no doctor near, no first-aid station 
where simple medicines could be obtained. 

In village after village I saw the same sight; and as I went among 
these huts I got a new understanding of Christ at work in this area. 
I realized for the first time what Christ the Healer meant. To rise 
from any sickbed is a miracle. To rise from a sick bed surrounded 
by the squalor and stench of the Middle East without the aid of 
drugs or science is superhuman, I appreciated for the first time what 
hold Christ must have had on the ordinary people of this area. These 
disease-ridden folks had no doctors, no medicines, no hospitals; but 
He fa$ew how to oire them. They saw Him make the afflicted whole 

"Thy Faith Hath Made Thee Whole" 233 

with a word; and so they worshiped Him and flocked in multitudes 
after Him. His deeds were the talk of the nation. One day the host 
that followed Him was so great they had to let a sick man down 
through the roof because the doors were blocked. At Galilee the 
audience was so large He had to preach from a boat pushed out 
from the shore. It was Jesus the Healer whom they adored. No 
wonder there was a great commotion in a city when the word was 
passed, "They say that Jesus of Nazareth is come!" No wonder 
the ecclesiastical powers of that day trembled at the thought of 
Christ s great popularity. By their standards a man who had such a 
hold on people was a dangerous man, a subversive influence. 

Though squalor is characteristic of most of the villages in this 
region, there are notable exceptions. Down in the Jordan Valley 
near Jericho is a model village newly built under the supervision of 
Musa Bey Alami. 

The Jordan at this point is about thirteen hundred feet below sea 
level. In the summer the valley has the heat of our Death Valley in it. 
The limestone and basalt walk of Judea on the west and Moab on the 
east make an oven out of the gorge. Here the Jordan is a slow, 
muddy stream half as wide as a city street. The soil on either side 
looks as lifeless as sand. Jericho on the west side of the river is 
an unattractive village of clay and adobe huts, parched and dry in 
the intense heat. Below Jericho a few miles is the Dead Sea on whose 
shores stood Sodom and Gomorrah. The July day I was there it 
was a blue shimmering spot in a thick haze. It is tepid and so salty 
that when I washed in it, the water clung to my skin like scum. The 
Dead Sea in fact the whole valley where Jericho is located 
seemed to me a symbol of death and sterility. 

Others have felt the same way about the spot: it was long main 
tained that this stretch of the Jordan was sterile. But Musa Bey 
Alami, looking for a way to take care of two thousand Arab refu 
gees, proved the contrary. He dug four wells each one hundred feet 
deep and got pure, cold water. After washing the land several times 
he planted cypress, pine, bananas, and palms. They flourished. He 
found that eggplant and all the other vegetables would grow there. 
Hence he started his housing projects. 

His fifty housing units have mud-brick walls and thatched 
roofs for coolness. The ceilings are high and the rooms have cross 

Strange Lands and Friendly People 

ventilation. The floors are concrete. Each house has a concrete sink, 
concrete drain boards, an indoor toilet, and a shower. The village 
has a school and a first-aid center. Musa Bey Alami conceived the 
project; the Arab refugees did all the work. A garden now blooms 
on the edge of the most desolate spot in creation a garden that is 
clean, fresh, and healthy. 

Kaber Essit and Babbila are ancient villages near Damascus that 
have gone through similar transformations through the efforts of 
the Near East Foundation, which has a highly successful agricultural 
experiment station in Damascus. Among its other projects it helped 
institute a marketing co-operative in these villages, and helped form 
the Arab equivalent of the Future Farmers of America. But I was 
particularly interested in the measures it has taken for public health 
and education. 

Control of disease starts with control of sewage. These villages 
are equipped with modern pit latrines, nine feet or so deep, lined 
with rock, and covered with a concrete slab. The watchmen who 
are hired to guard the villages at night put disinfectants in the pits. 
The waste water from the houses that formerly gathered in open 
canals is now run off in ditches that are lined with concrete slabs and 
covered over. 

The walls of every structure that men or beasts occupy are 
sprayed twice a year with DDT or BHC to keep down the flies. 

The water supply comes from wells. Regular tests are made to 
ascertain if the water is pure. Shortly before my visit one well was 
found to be polluted and was closed. 

In Babbila there is a school for women and girls. Though it gives 
the equivalent of five years in our grade schools, only three years 
are required to finish it, school being in session eleven months out 
of the year. 

At Babbila there is also a midwife clinic and a first-aid clinic, as 
well as a delivery room and a laboratory. The day before I visited 
Babbila in September, 1950, fifty-two patients mostly women 
had gone through the clinic. 

The moving spirit in this health project is Sanyieh Zafari a 
middle-aged Arab woman. When war between Israel and the Arab 
countries began, she was a midwife practicing in Haifa. Then she 
came to Damascus, and was induced by the Near East Foundation 
to head up the work at Babbila. 

"Thy Faith Hath Made Thee Whole" 235 

She is a plump lady with a kind face and a ready smile, and 
showed her projects to us with pride. We went through the labo 
ratories and the school, and into her model kitchen, where she 
served us Turkish coffee. The cupboard in her kitchen was screened, 
:he shelves had paper or oil cloth. The furniture was simple and 
slain, everything was in order, and all was spic and span. She 
iescribed the unsanitary kitchens in the typical Arab village. The 
\rab peasant wife seldom knows the rudiments of housework and 
)f cleanliness, but now they come by the hundreds from miles 
iround to see this model kitchen, and are fast duplicating it. in their 
>wn homes. 

In this region close to 50 per cent of the children die before they 
each the age of one. Miss Zafari spoke feelingly of the fact that for 
>ver a year no infant had died in the villages she served. She praised 
he midwives who had come for training, and the mothers who were 
tnder her care. 

As I walked through the village and talked with people, I learned 
hat everyone loved and respected Miss Zafari. Her word was taken 
s the gospel. She is an outgoing person who gives her affection to 
tie humblest. Day or night she will travel to remote places by 
icycle to help a pregnant woman or a sick child. She is mother to 
thousands of people who respond like children to sympathy and 

On my way back to Damascus I talked about this unusual lady, 
ie good work she is doing, the affection she commands. I men- 
oned to an Arab friend how rare it is to find such a servant of 
ood will with both skill and understanding and a willingness to 
evote her life to a selfless end. He said that only an Arab can pror 
ide that leadership to the Arab people. Ideas can come from out- 
de but their execution must be in Arab hands. Miss Zafari is not 
ily an Arab; she is an Arab of technical competence and high 
[ealism. But beyond that and even more important to her effec- 
yeness she has made two pilgrimages to Mecca and Medina. In 
le Arab world she is known as a hadjie. Her word therefore carries 
:eat weight and her example becomes a powerful influence, even 
hen it comes to persuading housewives to put screens on their 

35. Moslem Women 

AFKA is the headwaters of the Valley of the Ibrahim of the Leb 
anon, the fabled River of Adonis that empties into the Mediterranean 
near the ancient city of Biblos, now known at JbeiL Afka lies in an 
amphitheater ringed with limestone cliffs that rise one thousand 
feet or more on two sides. The river comes with a deep-throated 
roar from the base of one of the cliffs. Its waters are said to be the 
tears of Venus, shed over the death of Adonis, who met his fate 
while chasing a wild boar on this ridge. 

The river runs red each year and discolors the Mediterranean at 
its mouth. Milton wrote that "smooth Adonis from his native rock 
ran purple to the sea." The discoloration is due to iron deposits, but 
legend says it is the blood of Adonis. 

The place is rich in female symbolism. Long before the Romans, 
it was the seat of a sect worshiping Astarte, the Phoenician goddess. 
One cult that worshiped at this place made the prostitution of both 
sexes a sacred practice. The Romans erected a temple to Venus, 
which later became a Christian holy place, dedicated to the worship 
of the Virgin. Its ruins are still there. 

It is a place of worship even to this day. Fig trees (sacred, to the 
Phoenicians) grow near the foundations of the old temple, where a 
cold spring boils from the ground, and hang wide over the river. 
The day I was there women had come to this shrine to pray; and 
as they left, they tied pieces of cloth to the branches of the fig 
trees-~a votive offering for a sick child or for some other sorrow. 
TTsere were dozens of bits of cloth on the trees, each Representing 
a heartache, a hope, a supplication. Every flutter of the cloth re 
newed the prayer. This temple in ruins does not belong merely to 
aocknt days. It is a living church. 

We camped on the bench above the river under a walnut tree. 


Moslem Women 

Next to us was a Moslem camp where two young couples, a half- 
dozen children and an elderly lady stayed They were operating a 
small store for the benefit of the shepherds and goatherds who 
grazed the ridges, selling cheese, eggs, and wine. 

Our arrival caused considerable curiosity; and Arabs gathered 
around to watch us make camp. The two young wives of the Mos 
lems in the next camp stood together watching us. Their husbands 
squatted behind them over a charcoal fire, their backs to us. The 
ladies wore veils of coarse black cloth, and plain black dresses. Then- 
feet were bare. Long black strands of hair loosely braided hung 
over their shoulders. They were engaged in animated conversation, 
but there was no flirtation in their demeanor. This was lively, fem 
inine conversation over an exciting evenL 

We were the event; our fancy gasoline stove, mattresses filled 
with air, cameras, field glasses, sleeping bags, etc., were packed with 
curiosity. They pointed to one article and then another. Their eyes 
danced with merriment. 

When they started to talk, only their eyes were visible, but as 
time passed their veils slowly dropped until in a few minutes their 
faces were bare. 

Most of the women of this region have a queenly posture. It comes 
from carrying baskets, jugs, and boxes on their heads. These two 
young ladies under the walnut tree were stately. They were tall 
perhaps five nine their features finely chiseled, their teeth a beauti 
ful white, their dark eyes warm and vivacious. The two looked so 
much alike they may have been twins. 

They were, I am sure, quite unconscious of being unveiled. They 
were conscious of us only as moviegoers are conscious of the play 
unfolded on the screen. 

Suddenly one of the husbands turned around. Seeing the women 
unveiled he shouted something in an angry voice, and both wives 
quickly covered their faces. They stood quietly for a few moments. 
Then in their interest they became once more forgetful; and as 
they talked the veils gradually dropped until in five minutes or so 
they again stood barefaced before us. 

Then a forked tongue struck. The same husband who had given 
the previous warning turned and saw the women unveiled again. He 
was on his feet at once in a terrible fit of rage with an oath on 
his lips. 

Strange Lands and Friendly People 

The curse in the Arab world has a touch of art to it. We in 
America get at an opponent through his womenfolk. So do the 
Arabs. Their curses run as follows: 

A curse on your house. 

A curse on your religion. 

A curse on your sister s religion. 

A curse on your sister s sister s religion. 

The oaths grow increasingly insulting in that order. 

Which one the husband used I do not know. It was probably the 
first; and being directed at his wife, it meant that he hoped her 
family was cursed. His face was livid; he lunged at his wife with 
closed fist, hit her on the side of the face, and knocked her to the 
ground. Then he stood over her, pouring out his denunciations in 
an angry torrent of words. He pointed with his finger to the hills 
and in a thundering voice gave a command. 

The wife, who had been groveling at his feet, stood up, brushed 
off her clothes, took one small child in her arms and another by the 
hand, and went up the hill through a thin stand of oak and juniper, 
followed by the other woman and several small children. The one 
who had been struck looked furtively over her shoulder from time 
to time. Once she stopped and said something that was not audible. 
There was scorn on her face and the words she spoke were spit out. 
The husbands brought up the rear but were not in pursuit. No one 
was left under the sprawling walnut tree but the old lady. She was 
unveiled; and she smiled at me showing toothless gums, and went 
about the spot tidying up. 

The couple of dozen Arabs who had gathered on the opposite 
side of our camp watched us until our supper was over. Then they 
melted away. By dusk there was no one in sight except the old 
woman and our own muleteers. 

About dark the Arab who had knocked his wife to the ground 
reappeared. He had a few whispered words with the old lady and 
then approached me. 

He smiled, placed his right hand over his heart, bowed before me, 
and delivered a short address. His actions were a mystery to me. 
Bill West, to whom I turned for enlightenment, chuckled and gave 
me the following explanation: 

In this part of the world, among the Moslem peasants, a wife is 
property pretty much like a donkey. She can be used and abused 

Moslem Women 

in the same way. There is no accounting to anyone, except public 
opinion, whatever damage may be suffered. A good Moslem wife is 
never unveiled before a man unless he is her father, husband, brother, 
or son. These women committed a grievous sin when they became 
unveiled before us, and their act reflected on their husbands. Hus 
bands are supposed to train their wives better. 

"What will you think of him when his wife is so loose with her 
moral conduct?" asked Bill. "You will doubtless rate him as a 
second-rate husband." 

"Doesn t he realize that I think he s a louse for knocking the good 
woman down?" 

"Certainly not." 

What the husband was doing was apologizing for his wife s con 
duct He was also stating that he hoped I would not think too badly 
of him for what she had done. He hoped I would forget her trans 
gressions and accept him as a friend. This was my rude introduction 
to the problem of the women of the Moslem world. 

Most Moslem women live in an environment of insecurity. That 
insecurity stems from the philosophy of the Koran that "Men shall 
have the pre-eminence above women, because of those advantages 
wherein God hath caused the one of them to excel the other and 
for that which they expend of their substance in maintaining their 
wives." In the Moslem view that pre-eminence of men rests on 
their superior understanding; their greater strength; their prefer 
ment for the offices of church and state; and their role as warriors 
for propagation of the Moslem faith. 

The Koran commands obedience of the wife to the husband. It 
allows husbands to beat their wives. "But those, whose perverseness 
ye shall be apprehensive of, rebuke; and remove them into separate 
apartments, and chastise them." 

The Koran allows a man to have four lawful wives. Some sects, as 
I have said, permit any number of contract wives in addition to the 
four legal ones. A contract marriage is subject to the approval of the 
priest, the term of contract being specified, as is the amount of money 
or property which the woman gets. If children are born during the 
term of the contract they are lawful heirs. At the end of the con 
tract, the wife goes her way. The contract may not be renewed. 
The children stay in the home of the father. 

The husband can have as many concubines as he wants or can 

240 Strange Lmds and Friendly People 

afford There are markets in Mecca where this can be arranged 
where merchants try to please their customers by providing girls 
that meet the most fastidious taste. 

Under Moslem law a wife cannot get a divorce for any reason. 
On the other hand a husband can get a divorce any time he wants 
one and for any reason he may advance. The Koran speaks of main 
tenance for a divorced wife "on a reasonable scale," but the law in 
the Arab world provides alimony for only four months, to make 
sure the wife is not pregnant. After that, the duty to support ends. 
The length of time children must be supported is also greatly cur 
tailed by law. Thus in Iraq it extends until boys are seven and girls 
are nine. 

The divorced wife gets the children only as a matter of grace; 
the husband has the right to keep them if he desires. The short of it 
is that on a divorce the woman goes empty-handed, retaining only 
the money or property that the marriage contract provided. In 
every marriage arrangement there is a provision for dower the 
transfer of property from the husband to the wife as the Koran 
admonishes the man to seek a woman in marriage "with gifts from 
your property." 

The Koran also commands that women "restrain their eyes, and 
preserve their modesty, and discover not their ornaments except 
what necessarily appeareth thereof." Women are to live in a retiring 
manner; no jewels, no make-up, no attractive clothes are to be worn. 
The Koran indeed says, "Let them throw their veils over their 
bosoms," taking care to cover their heads, necks, and breasts. They 
are directed not to show their ornaments except to their menfolk 
or other women. 

Women do not vote. They are not qualified for office. Under 
Moslem kw women inherit property as men do, but the share of the 
man is double the share of the woman. 

There are of course happy marriages in the Moslem world per 
haps as many as elsewhere. Polygamy has greatly declined. Women 
are expensive, and the economics of the Middle East has driven more 
and more men to monogamy* Even Abdullah, the late King of 
Trans-Jordan, had only three wives. 

But the inferior position of women in the Moslem world makes a 
profound impression on one who, accustomed to the sex equality 
wMcfa we know, walks the streets of the Middle East, frequents its 

Moslem Women 

restaurants and hotels, and is enteitained in its drawing rooms. In 
every public place the women are shy and furtive, drawing their 
veils tightly over their faces and usually showing only one eye. One 
becomes accustomed to that. But it was much more difficult to get 
used to the total absence of women at the social functions. 

Every lunch, every tea, every reception, every dinner is a stag 
affair. There is no woman to greet you; the wife of the host is not 
to be seen. Once in a while the eye will catch a slight movement of 
a shutter or screen where a woman has been watching. Women will 
of course be in the kitchen, cooking the meal; in the dining room, 
setting the table; in the sleeping quarters, making the beds. But 
they are discreetly absent unseen and unheard during all of the 
social activities. I recall a stay at the home of a prominent official. I 
was unaccustomed to the house and mistook the dining-room door 
for the door to the suite which had been assigned to me. As I en 
tered, pandemonium broke loose. Women of the household, their 
faces uncovered, were setting the table for dinner. When they saw 
me, they were seized with fright and ran from the room like does in 
a panic. 

The stag party usually lacks the grace and charm that feminine 
company contributes. There is not the same thoughtfulness, the 
same attention to the guest s comfort as when the lady of the house 
is the hostess. The talk is apt to be neither so profound nor so friv 
olous and gay. Women, with their keener perception of the atmos 
phere of a room, their greater awareness of the mood of a group, 
their more discriminating taste, give a balance to a social occasion 
which a stag party customarily lacks. The atmosphere of hospitality 
they create is more intimate and personal. 

When one is a guest in a home it goes without notice if the lady 
of the house does not turn up for breakfast But when for days on 
end one never sees, let alone meets, the womenfolk, the home ac 
quires an emptiness. 

Some of the well-to-do people and the professional classes are 
breaking with custom. Their womenfolk appear at social functions 
even outside the home, unveiled and bejeweled. I remember a garden 
party in Isfahan, Persia, on a clear August night when a full moon 
rode high in the west over the Bakhtiari country.* Among the eighty 
people present were many beautiful women, both Moslem and Chris 
tian. But the Moslem ladies all sat together in one corner of the 

242 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

garden. No one was introduced to them. None of them danced* I 
inquired if it would be proper for me to invite the hostess wife of 
a Moslem to dance. There was a whispered conference on protocol 
and word came back, "No, it s not done." 

My dinner partner was a Moslem lady, a beautiful creature in her 
twenties with long, black silken hair, lovely skin, deep brown eyes, 
and long black eyelashes. The dinner took an hour, but not once 
did she look up from her plate. I kept up a running conversation, 
plying her with questions, and she answered each one politely with 
a yes or a no where possible. But not once did she take a thread of 
the conversation and weave it into a thought of her own. Not once 
did she look at me. And when the meal was over she quickly left 
without a word and returned to the protective corner where the 
other ladies of the Moslem faith sat. 

This attitude of Moslem women has at times rather serious prac 
tical aspects. One of the pressing problems of the Middle East is 
health. Hospitals and first-aid clinics are as essential as doctors. But 
hospitals require nurses; and women who must keep their necks 
and faces covered and who must not look upon a man outside their 
family obviously cannot do the work of a nurse. 

The problem of nurses is not as serious in Persia as in other parts 
of the Moslem world. I visited a nurses training school at Shiraz 
where traditions are fast being broken; many young women are 
available for the course. But the Persians, who were converted to 
the Moslem faith at the point of the sword of Islam, have not taken 
the Word in all its rigors. In Iraq the conditions are quite different. 
I visited a hospital at Basra (which is near the Persian Gulf) and 
learned from the chief medical officer an Arab of distinction 
some of the difficulties of getting women for nurses. There are a 
few; but the majority of the nurses are males. Thus the Arab world, 
which was the first in history to have hospitals, which centuries ago 
brought traveling health clinics to rural areas, which introduced 
scientific medicine to Europe, now lags far behind. The religion 
which gave it the unifying, driving power to conquer the world 
now hampers it in solving its major problem of public health. 

I mentioned earlier that when I was a house guest of Kemal 
Djumblatt in Lebanon, his mother, Nazira, appeared for a tea. Ex 
cept that the Druzes do not sanction polygamy, Druze women have 
as inferior a social position as Moslem women. Hence Nazira s pres- 

Moslem Women 

ence at the party was a break from tradition. She acted bravely. 
Villagers from miles around were there for the reception, and 
villagers have strict notions about women; they adhere steadfastly to 
precedent. The tea went off nicely, however, in spite of my hostess s 
defiance of custom. But she showed restraint. She never let her veil 
drop clear of her face. 

As the party broke up Nazira walked to the front porch to bid 
some of the people good-by. I asked her to stand facing the sun so 
I could take her picture. She said, "The picture of me that you can 
have is the picture you will carry in your heart." 

"I will always carry your picture in my heart," I replied. "But I 
also want one to carry in my pocket." 

She laughed, shook her head, and went into the house. Later she 
took me aside and whispered, "If I had let you take my picture, 
every villager here would have used it against me. Overnight I 
would have the reputation of being a loose woman," 

She must have noticed the amazed look on my face for she added, 
"It s the men. They have old-fashioned ideas about us. They want 
us neither seen nor heard." 

It is difficult for an outlander to talk to a Moslem woman; it is 
especially difficult to get her to talk about the Moslem customs that 
keep her in serfdom. But I finally persuaded a few to talk; and the 
outpourings were so moving that I believe I found the truth. 

Moslem women do not wear the veil of their own accord. It is 
not, as some suppose, anything like the American woman s custom 
of wearing hats. The veil is the product of pressure by the husband 
and of discipline by the clergy. Her position of inferiority is im 
pressed on the girl from the time she is in the cradle. The example 
of all the womenfolk, the quick scoldings of the mother, the ad 
monitions of the holy man, all combine to condition the girl when 
she is still a child. By the time she has grown to womanhood, she 
has fixed patterns of conduct. To deviate from them is not only 
grievous error; it is outright sin. 

I visited a rug factory in Isfahan, Persia, where beautiful Persian 
rugs were being made by little girls, some six years old, sitting 
on scaffolds and tying knots in the warp and woof of the rug hang 
ing in front of them. Their tiny fingers worked like machine-driven 
shuttles. Each wore a veil; but since they were alone, they had let 
the veils drop free of their faces. When they saw me, fright came 

Strange Lands and Friendly People 

to their eyes; they instantly covered their faces and held the veils 
in their teeth as they bent with renewed vigor to their work. 

I told this story to May Djumblatt, the charming Druze lady who 
is breaking with tradition. She nodded with understanding and then 
said, "These Moslem and Druze women of ours are frightened, timid 
souls. A terrible sense of sin hangs over all of us whenever we try to 
be free." 

She discussed what Reza Shah had done in Persia, defying the 
clergy and ordering the police to tear the veils from the women on 
the street. 

"That s the only way it can be done," she declared. "We are too 
frightened, too timid to do it on our own. Force must be used." 

She went on to emphasize how deep-seated this timidity was; it 
would take several generations for Moslem women to overcome 
their fear, she thought, even if heroic measures were used. She illus 
trated her point with the Persian example. Reza Shah had torn the 
veils from the women but when Reza Shah passed from the scene, 
the Moslem women under the pressure of custom and the church 
resumed their ancient ways. 

We talked about the place of women in the world of affairs; the 
desirability of granting them the right to vote and so on. But she 
was not optimistic. "The poor, miserable, frightened dears must first 
learn to face the world unafraid. That will be the first step." 

She spoke of the plank in her husband s Progressive Socialist party 
platform which gives equal rights to women. (Under the new 
Syrian Constitution women are given the right to vote and some of 
them are exercising the franchise.) "But it is very difficult to 
get women into political work. Their menfolk frown at any such 
doings. Women are to remain behind the scenes to rear babies, cook, 
and keep house." 

I expressed surprise that both Moslem and Druze women were 
not thrilled at the proposal of equal rights. There was a wry smile 
on her face as she answered. "They want to be. But they re too 
frightened to be openly thrilled." She went on to describe the diffi 
culties of getting Arab women active in any community or political 
affairs. "Listen," she said, "I have worked days on end, talking with 
our women. I say, Look, Fm free! I discarded the veil. That s what 
I tell them to do. But there are very few who have the courage to 
take the step." 

Moslem Women 245 

There was a mounting emotion in her voice as she spoke and there 
was fire in her eyes as she turned, "Why do men do this awful thing 
to us? Why do they keep us subjugated, filled with the terrible 
sense of inferiority?" 

The Russians are too astute and wily to direct their propaganda 
against this treatment of women in the Moslem world. One can 
comb through all the Russian broadcasts and literature prepared for 
this area without finding a word that challenges or defies either the 
custom or the teachings of the Koran. The Soviets do not want a 
clash with the clergy (the mullahs). Their technique is much more 
subtle and their methods of attacking the problem are more indirect. 

The Moslem woman, though socially and legally inferior in the 
Moslem scheme of things, exerts a powerful influence behind the 
scenes. When the French moved into Syria, she thought the new 
comer would be her emancipator. And so she whispered to the 
menfolk, discouraging them from resisting. Perhaps the greatest 
political mistake the French made in Syria was to endorse the 
Moslem code and to support the system that held women in an in 
ferior position. As a result, it was not long before the women were 
stirring the men to new resistance. But for British protection, the 
French forces might have been entirely wiped out in the last violent 
months of their occupation. 

The Russians seem to appreciate the moral of that story. 

There are thirty million Moslems in Russia, largely in Turkistaii. 
Accurate reports of their conditions are hard to get. We do know 
that Russia has used terror to hold them in line. Genocide is part 
of the Soviet technique among its minorities. Dispersal of groups 
is another. In the case of Moslems the Soviets have practically barred 
pilgrimages to Mecca, allowing their Moslems no opportunity to 
effect a tie with the Brotherhood of Islam in the countries south of 
the border. But from sources that I deem reliable I have learned 
some of the things (apart from terror and other police practices) 
that the Soviets are doing inside Russia to wed their Moslem popula 
tion to Soviet communism. 

First. They have had a hand in selecting mullahs or priests sym 
pathetic to the Soviet cause priests who will preach conf ormance, 
not rebellion. 

Second. All but two million of the thirty million Moslems in 

246 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

Russia have been settled on the land. Extensive desert areas have 
been brought under cultivation; and the economic lot of the Moslem 
population what they wear and eat and the physical conditions 
under which they live has been improved. 

Third. More important perhaps than all the other measures has 
been the emancipation of the Moslem women. The Soviets have had 
a whole generation to work on the problem. The old folks cling to 
ancient habits. The new generation of women have a new freedom; 
they have been given recognition that Moslem women have never 
known. Veils are not worn. Women occupy posts of importance; 
all avenues of activity are open to them; there is no discrimination 
against them in education; their talents are given opportunities even 
in government. Their achievements are praised; even their pictures 
are carried in the Communist press and given much prominence. 
The Soviets publicize the number of women employed by the Com 
munist party in its organizational and administrative work, the 
number who hold positions with trade unions, those who have be 
come engineers, technicians, nurses and doctors, those who hold 
posts as deputies in government. 

The Communist party in the Middle East, mostly underground, 
has branches for women. Women secretly spread the doctrine of 
equal rights and work clandestinely for the cause of feminism. The 
Tudeh party in Persia has many young women among its leaders. 
They are in fact the main pillars of its strength. 

The recognition of women is a powerful factor in breaking the 
resistance of the thirty million Moslems inside Russia. The women 
like their new freedom. No amount of religious or other propaganda 
can induce them to surrender it and resume the lowly position 
which their faith reserved for them. As a result the Brotherhood of 
Islam no longer presents a completely united front to Soviet Com 

36. Sukhnetfs Arab Refugees 

"PRAISE BE to God, the Lord of all creatures; the most merciful, the 
king of the day of judgment. Thee do we worship and of thee do 
we beg assistance. Direct us in the right way, in the way of those 
to whom thou hast been gracious; not of those against whom thou 
art incensed, nor of those who go astray." 

This was the singsong chant in Arabic Bill and I heard coming 
from a group of peaked tents that dotted the barren plain at Sukhneh 
in Trans-Jordan. The tents were neatly arranged, forming a village 
about twelve blocks long and six wide. Flying high above this tent 
city was the flag of the International Red Cross. It marked the ad 
ministrative headquarters (also in tents): admission office, hospital 
and first-aid clinics, living quarters for the doctors and nurses, 
kitchens, and, perhaps most important of all, a milk-distribution 

This was an Arab refugee camp housing sixteen thousand people, 
of whom two thousand were children under the age of twelve. The 
cluster of tents nearest us formed the public school system. 

The plateau on which the camp was located was rolling land 
without a tree or bush to relieve its monotony. There was scant 
vegetation, only a few straggling spears of dry grass. To the south 
a herd of camels under the management of a Bedouin searched the 
scorched earth for nibbles of nourishment. To the north a mile or 
so was a touch of green deep in a ravine perhaps some willow 
trees. They marked an ancient spring of pure cold water that the 
Red Cross pumped up to the viUage. There was no other sign of 
greenness as far as the eye could see. 

This plateau is a part of Moab, sometimes known as the Mount 
or Mountains of Abarim. 

It was from Moab that Moses first saw the Promised Land. This 

2$ Strange Lands and Friendly People 

is a land of scorpions and vipers the region of the fiery serpents 
of Biblical fame (Numbers 21:6). Moab has little rainfall from six 
to ten inches a year. The land is dry and parched in the summer. 
Here the Israelites had to dig for water as they sang, "Spring up, O 
well; sing ye unto it" (Numbers 21:17.) Here in the land of Moab 
at some unknown spot Moses lies buried (Deuteronomy 34:6). 

The plateau around Sukhneh is typical of western Trans-Jordan. 
But, though barren to the eye, it is more productive than most of 
Trans-Jordan s land. For as the low hills roll east they become 
more and more desolate, joining the desertic steppe of Iraq far to 
the east and rolling into the sands of Saudi Arabia on the southeast. 
A wind swept down from the northwest, whipping the tents and 
sending little whirlpools of dust dancing across the ground. It was a 
hot wind with the warmth of a furnace in its breath. Some of the 
flaps of the tents broke loose and made such a noise as almost to 
drown out the chant of the Arab prayer. Dust whirled into the tents 
and out again. But the chanting went on without interruption. 

Karl Reiser, head of the Red Cross in Amman and our host, told 
us about the educational adventure which we saw in operation on 
the hot pkteau of Sukhneh. It was inspired by the Arabs themselves. 
Among them were many educated people doctors, lawyers, teach 
ers, clergy and the like. They proposed that schools be established 
to absorb some of the energies of the restless group under twelve 
years old and to give direction to their lives. The Red Cross co 
operated by furnishing the tents. Arabs volunteered to serve as 

As is customary in the Moslem world, girls were taught separately 
from boys, but each was given in the main the same course of in 
struction. It started with the Koran. The prayer that we heard 
was from the first book. It came in soft female tones from the tent 
next to us; then we could hear it in a more robust male chorus across 
the way. Older girls were chanting it in a measured beat. Young 
lads five years of age were singing it in piping tones. 

I stood at the door of one tent and listened to a class of boys re 
cite. There were twenty of them, sitting at the feet of a young male 
instructor who held the attention of the class in spite of our in 

"I have five apricots and I eat one. How many do I have left?" 

SukhneWs Arab Refugees 249 

Four fingers went up from each student except one, a tiny tot 
perhaps six years old, who showed five fingers. 

We moved to another tent. Girls were having a spelling lesson. 

"Mary, how do you spell Allah?" 

"Elizabeth, how do you spell anzih [goat]?" 

In another tent boys around the age of six were having a reading 
lesson. From a distance the pamphlet from which they were read 
ing had a familiar look. I walked up to a lad seated on the floor and 
looked over his shoulder and had to smile at what I saw. He was 
reading the story of the "Three Little Pigs." He turned a few pages 
and there was an illustrated story of the "Three Bears." 

In another tent we listened to boys reading a lesson from the 
Koran. One ten-year-old stood reciting. He read in a faltering un 
sure way but with dignity and seriousness: "Praise be unto God, 
who hath created the heavens and the earth, and hath ordained the 
darkness and the light." 

In another tent, young girls seven and eight years old were being 
given sewing lessons. In still another older girls were writing 
copying from the Koran. Across the way was a boys class in his- 
tor y a young instructor (without a history book) reciting some 
early chapters in Arab history. 

As he spoke the dust swirled under his feet and blew into the 
faces of the youngsters seated before him on the ground. When 
we were outside, Karl Reiser spoke of the problem of the dust in this 
desolate place. He said it was particularly hard on the students when 
they were in their classroom-tents. The students and volunteer in 
structors had decided on a course of action: they would build brick 
walls three feet high around each tent to protect the classes from 
the dust. But such a project required money. Clay and straw would 
have to be brought in; forms would have to be made; some tools 
would be needed; and the help of brickmakers obtained. 

There were brick-makers in the camp who contributed their 
services. The students raised the American equivalent of twenty-five 
dollars and, with the help of the Red Cross, the needed supplies 
were obtained. The day we were there bricks were being made, One 
tent had already been walled. An enthusiasm which was contagious 
had swept the school. This school in the wasteland housed in tents 
with dirt floors, and located in an oven filled with dust from die 
wings of a torrid wind had an esprit de corps which is often lack- 

2 jo Strange Lands and Friendly People 

ing in more luxurious surroundings. Building mud walls together 
had created a community attitude. 

We inspected the kitchen where milk (made from a powder) was 
dispensed once a day. A pint for each child each day was the 
ration. The kitchen, tightly screened and open at the sides, was 
neat and clean. The line formed where a Red Cross worker ladled 
0ac the milk from a waist-high window. 

The scourge of the Arab world, so far as small children and others 
who have not built up an immunity are concerned, is dysentery. 
Dysentery and undernourishment go hand in hand. In the Moslem 
world if there is not enough food to satisfy the hunger of the whole 
family, the boys and men are fed first, the girls and women last. It s 
a man s world; and every advantage from birth on through life is 
granted the male. 

We saw at Sukhneh an example of this. In one of the hospital tents 
British nurses were giving intravenous injections to some babies less 
than a year old. 

"What is the trouble?" I asked a slim, blue-eyed, blonde nurse. 

"These are girls who were about to die from undernourishment 
and dysentery," she replied. 

"Many cases like this in camp?" 

"I ve been here a month; and I would say we have saved the lives 
of at least two hundred little girls this way." 

The cry of one little tot receiving the injection was so feeble that 
it seemed to come from the other world. The dark face of her tall, 
tfaia mother showed a complete absorption in the work of the 
nurse so complete that her veil had dropped, disclosing her whole 
countenance. At first she was not aware of our presence. When she 
saw us, die quickly covered her face. But in that moment I had 
seen a face full of grief and suffering. It showed more than the deep 
coiacem any mother would have when the life of her child hung 
in bakncej k mirrored the suffering of a woman in a world where 
the odds were against her at birth, where she bloomed and flourished 
eariy m Me, and where under the burden of work and drudgery 
she faded early and was apt to be old by her middle thirties. 

Tiie ration for the Arabs in this camp was fifteen hundred calories 
d*tly. Most of it was consumed by the recipients. Some of it found 
ks way into a black market that had sprung up in the camp. 

SukhneWs Arab Refugees 251 

I inquired through a native if I could get chocolate, powdered 
milk, coffee in that market. 

"Come with me, 77 he said, motioning with his head 

I did not accept his offer. Instead we toured the dusty streets and 
saw the life of the Arab camp. Women were carrying water from 
the central hydrant for cooking and washing. Men were lolling in 
the shade of the tents some asleep, some in groups talking, others 
sitting in solitary meditation. I asked Karl Reiser what they did all 
day, how their morale was. 

He said that inactivity in a camp rotted people ate away at their 
inner core and made them bitter, or else robbed them of initiative 
and made them indolent and irresponsible. 

"It hurts the fiber of a person whether a prisoner in a war camp 
in England, a concentration camp in Germany, or a refugee camp 
in Trans-Jordan," he added. "One who has been behind a stockade 
for a year usually needs rehabilitation." 

Many of these refugees wanted to be rid of Moab and Judea and 
find homes elsewhere in Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, or along the 
Tigris or Euphrates rivers. But the pull of Palestine was still strong; 
I had visited the Shaieba Refugee Camp located in another bit of 
wasteland out of Basra in southern Iraq where three thousand Arabs 
from Palestine were housed. The heat at Shaieba had a sticky, humid 
quality. From the camp I kept seeing vast expanses of blue water 
that beckoned from the south. They were mirages. So had been the 
expectations of the refugees for settling in Iraq. But when at last 
the Iraqi government offered them land, they refused. The call of 
Moab and Judea was still too strong to resist 

I sat in a tent at Sukhneh discussing these matters with the ad 
ministrative staff. After the doctors and nurses joined the group, 
the talk turned to the psychosis that developed in people who are 
hemmed in by stockades. 

It appeared that the problem in Trans-Jordan was not quite so 
acute as in other Arab countries. Abdullah had been liberal in grant 
ing the refugees in his country freedom to leave the camps and find 
employment if they could. Some had been able to find outside 
work. But opportunities for employment in a society based pre 
dominantly on a Bedouin economy were quite limited. A young 
Arab doctor, graduate of American University at Beirut, who was 
on the medical staff at Sukhneh, spoke up: 

2 $2 Strxnge Lands md Friendly People 

**There is in each refugee camp a cross section of people in Pales 
tine. There are peasants of the lowest economic class and profes 
sional and scientific people of the highest. There are doctors in a 
carnp in Lebanon who are not allowed to minister to the sick in 
Beirut. There are engineers, pharmacists, architects, lawyers rotting 
away in this camp." 

One of the Belgian nurses added that these people would all be 
skk people sick emotionally and maladjusted-- unless resettlement 
was effected quickly. 

The young Arab doctor nodded assent and with a wry smile 
added, u Yes, and the only ones to gain are the Communists. They 
spread the poison of discontent, building in the minds of these people 
anger against every person or group or party in power. The Com 
munists whisper that the enemies of the refugees those responsible 
for their plight are the Jews and America, Abdullah and England, 
Zayim and France, Wall Street and the Vatican." 

After a pause he added, "This camp is like an infection. We run 
It as best we can. But no camp is healthy. Each breeds a virus that 
medicine cannot control or cure." 

Back in Amman we saw Abdullah. The King was not well, a condi 
tion made worse by the fact that this was the month of Ramadan, 
the fast month when the Moslems neither eat, drink, nor smoke 
from dawn until dark. It was midday and blistering hot. Yet on 
short notice Abdullah received us, diessed in a white gown and 

He was a short man and slight, vivacious and lighthearted; and his 
eyes danced with merriment. 

Turning to my son, Bill, he said through an interpreter, "I have 
a job for you." 

Bill, greatly surprised, said, "A job? What is it?" 

*lt s a job here in the palace." 

"What will I have to do?" 

Teach me English." 

"What is the pay?" 

*TH pay you by teaching you Arabic." 

"It s a deal/ Bill replied "But I want Saturdays and Sundays off." 

Abdullah threw back his head and laughed. Then turning to me 
be said, "I like your son. Is he going to be a lawyer too?" 

"I don t know," I replied. "I wish he would become a teacher." 

SukhneWs Arab Refugees 253 

"Of English?" he asked. And we both laughed. 

Then the conversation got more serious. 

Was there a chance for an early peace with Israel? 

An armistice had just been signed, Abdullah said; and he hoped 
that a peace settlement could be worked out satisfactory to both 

And what about the Fertile Crescent the project for uniting all 
the Arab countries from Egypt to Turkey in a grand federation? 
Abdullah a short while previously had made a bid to head such a 
league. Zayim, dictator of Syria, had replied scornfully. 

Abdullah spoke lightly of Zayim as if Zayim were a mere whip- 
persnapper or smart aleck who had no possible claim to the loyalty 
of the Arab world. 

The conversation wandered off into pleasantries; and we left 

It had been cool and dark in the room where we had been re 
ceived by the King. Outside it was dazzling bright and the sun 
touched the skin with a sting. As our car turned from the driveway 
into the highway I said to our interpreter, "The amazing thing 
about that interview with Abdullah is that there was not a word 
of bitterness against the Jews. Maybe there is a real chance of 
peace. Or was he merely putting on an act?" 

We returned to the Philadelphia Hotel at Amman, where we 
were staying, and found Musa Bey Nasser waiting. He is a Pales 
tinian Arab bright, able, soft-spoken who had recently been made 
Minister of Communications in Abdullah s cabinet. He spoke more 
feelingly than Abdullah about the Arab-Jewish issue. But recon 
ciliation was his theme. 

"We need the Jew and the Jew needs us. There is no reason why 
we should not have peace. But it must be peace based not on force 
but on a fair political settlement. * 

Wells Stabler, U.S. Charge d Aff aires at Amman, invited us to his 
house for lunch. Amman, the original Philadelphia of the world, is 
a town of perhaps ten thousand located on both sides of a deep 
gulch. So far as I could see its mark of distinction was the ruins of 
a Roman amphitheater opposite the Philadelphia Hotel where we 
stayed. But Amman has also a warm spot in our hearts which came 
from Stabler s home. He lives on a height overlooking the city. Bare, 
rolling hills are on all sides with hardly a tree to break the bleak- 

2 $4 Strange Lmds and Friendly People 

ness and monotony of the countryside. It was blistering hot in the 
sun but cool in the shade of Stabler s porch. 

A congenial group gathered there for lunch. Those I best re- 
raember, apart from Wells Stabler, were Karl Reiser of the Red 
Cross and Father William, Franciscan monk. 

Francis of Assisi had gone with John of Brienne, King of Jeru 
salem, on the Crusade of 1218-1221. This was the first attempt to 
take Cairo, and it failed. But St. Francis, barefooted and hatless, 
appeared in the camp of the Sultan as an apostle of poverty and 
gentleness, as a missionary of peace. He walked unafraid through 
the unfriendly camp of the Arabs, and the Sultan ordered that he 
pass unharmed. The Franciscans have been in the Middle East most 
of the time since then. 

Father William, short and roly-poly with dark thinning hair, is 
a lively conversationalist and wit. He set the tone of the luncheon. 
There was some serious talk the vicissitudes of the Franciscans in 
Palestine; their educational work among all races of the region; the 
great numbers of martyrs (some fifteen hundred of them had been 
killed in seven centuries of service in the Middle East); the new 
school under construction at Amman, an institution of which Father 
William had charge. We could in fact see the new school on a hill 
above Stabler s homes a large white building still covered with 

Then the conversation livened and hit a lighter level. Someone 
asked if we had met the favorite of Abdullah s three wives a 

Another whispered, <c She runs the black market in Trans-Jordan." 

"Don t whisper," Father William said, his round face beaming, 
"w tbe Douglases will think Stabler got this delicious wine through 
ber. H 

After a pause, Father William, turning to Stabler, said, "You 
know, I think our friend Reiser here is becoming a veiy apt pupiL" 

* what?" 

**Qf the Anb world and its ways." 

"And what in particular? 5 * 

"In |wticiikr, of the Bedouins," Father William replied with a 
twinkle in his eye. He went on to tell how in the first days of the 
Red Cross no one knew for sure who was an Arab refugee and who 
was not. Great numbers of people were drifting over the border. 

Sukhneh s Arab Refugees 255 

Most were legitimate refugees; others were merely looking. for a 
bread line. The problem of the Red Cross was to separate the one 
from the other. 

"One day," Father William added, "a number of Bedouins came 
to Karl and asked that he go with them to the outskirts of Amman 
to enroll a group of Bedouin refugees on the Red Cross roll. Karl 
went. The first day he enrolled two hundred. The next day he en 
rolled three hundred. The next day he enrolled over five hundred. 
He came to me to ask if it were possible there were so many Bedouin 
refugees in this region. I suggested that there might be one hundred. 

"So the next day Karl hired an Arab to mingle with the Bedouins 
and do some espionage work for him." 

"With what results?" Stabler asked. 

Father William was chuckling from his waist up as he said, "Karl 
found that the Bedouins who enrolled went off on their camels 
behind a hill about a mile distant, reorganized their group, and re 
appeared as new Bedouin refugees." 

We roared with laughter. Then Father William added as he 
wiped his eyeglasses, "Some of those bunnies had registered twenty 
times under different names, while they looked Karl straight in the 

"Is this the truth?" I asked. "Or is it a bit of skullduggery magni 
fied many times by good wine?" 

"It s the whole truth," said Karl. "All a Bedouin with a mustache 
had to do the second time was to cover it with his kafiyeh. They d 
appear with different women and children each turn around. A man 
with a donkey would ride a camel the next time, and so on." 

"People are pretty much the same the world around," said Father 
William in a more serious vein. Turning to me he asked, "Are those 
reports of padded unemployment rolls emanating from Seattle any 
less bizarre than this account from Amman? Or was it Jersey City?" 

37. The Eternal City 

BILL AND I stood by the wall of Jerusalem at St. Stephen s gate and 
saw the sun rise above the Mount of Olives, where Christ was ac 
customed to go for the night when He taught during the day in the 
Temple at Jerusalem. At the bottom of the Mount of Olives is 
Gcthsemane, the garden where He was wont to pray and where He 
was betrayed by Judas. Now as then it is an olive grove; and today 
the olive trees are relics of an ancient age. Their trunks are gnarled, 
twisted, and hollowed, and many times thicker than any I had seen. 
A Franciscan church is located in the garden; and one of its Fathers 
(whose name I never knew) spoke feelingly of the olives. This 
man, like the olive trees, was aged. I asked him how old he thought 
the trees were. Though he had doubtless been asked the same ques 
tion a thousand times, he stood in reflection awhile and then rever 
ently replied, "I have come to believe they were young trees when 
Christ first came here to pray." 

We crossed the Valley of Judgment below us on the west. It 
seemed that each available plot of ground was already occupied by 
a grave. Tombstones are packed tight through the whole reach 
of the valley and on both slopes. It is an odd-looking cemetery. 
There is no expanse of trees, no green lawns to break the desola- 
tkm of the spot. As we crossed the valley a funeral procession was 
coming down from the north, the participants on foot, strung 
out a block or more. 

We altered the Old City of Jerusalem through St. Stephen s gate. 
In the days of the Old Testament it was known as the Sheep Gate, 
since it was through this gate that sheep were brought for the 
sacrifices in the Temple of Solomon. But it has been called St. 
Stephen s Gate since early Christian times, for near here St. Stephen 
met his death. He was tried before the Sanhedrin (famed Rabbinical 
court) for blasphemy for maintaining that the Word of Christ 


The Eternal City 257 

replaced the Law of Moses. He was found guilty, and hurled from 
a height so that his back might be broken. But he survived that 
ordeal, and was stoned to death, his last words being, "Lord, ky 
not this sin to their charge." (Acts 7:60.) 

We followed a narrow winding street called the Way of Sorrow 
to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This street is too narrow 
for automobiles to pass, and is used mostly by pedestrians and by 
camels and donkeys. This morning it was packed members of the 
Arab Legion swinging jauntily along; veiled women with jugs, 
platters, baskets on their heads; donkeys loaded with lumber, stone, 
wheat, straw, bales of undisclosed produce trotting in orderly 
fashion and directed from behind by men or boys with sticks; 
Moslem clergy going to a mosque; a few camels walking gingerly, 
their heads high and sneering, their backs loaded with bales; beggars 
in rags, deformed, blind, emaciated, crying for alms "Backshish, 

There are some shops along the Way of Sorrow; but most of the 
buildings are adjoining residences or offices with no courtyards in 
between. Near the start we passed the house of Pontius Pilate. 
Then we came to the so-called "stations" the places where, it is 
said, Christ fell or stopped to rest as he carried the Cross to Calvary. 
The "stations" have been given the semblance of authenticity by 
plates set in the walls. 

We had as a guide a tall, rangy Arab who wore his tarboosh at a 
jaunty angle and spoke English with a British accent* There is a dent 
in a stone wall where, according to him, Christ stumbled and fell, 
hitting the stone with his elbow. We passed the home of the 
Wandering Jew who would not let Christ rest on his stoop, and 
also the former home of St. Veronica. The so-called twelfth "sta 
tion" is the church, a massive building, mainly distinguished in ap 
pearance by a rotunda with an open dome. First built by Emperor 
Constantine in A.D. 335, it has since been destroyed and rebuilt 
several times, but has stood substantially unchanged for the last 
century and a half. It is the property of five Christian sects 
Catholic, Armenian, Coptic, Greek Orthodox, and Jacobite which 
for years have not been able to agree on its management. Conse 
quently Moslem soldiers have guarded it and today Moslem priests 
have the keys. 

The church has been built over the holy places and is filled with 

Strange Lands and Friendly People 

shrines and altars of the various faiths. Priests stood in attendance, 
asking alms and handing us candles to light our way. We went 
down into caverns that had a damp chill about them. We climbed 
stairs and groped our way through cellars and passageways that 
were Stygian black. The whole interior seemed damp and gloomy. 

There is marked the place where Christ appeared to his Mother 
after the Resurrection; the place where the crosses were found by 
Sk Helena; the pillar to which Christ was bound when he was 
scourged; a chapel hewn out of rock where Christ was confined 
prior to his Crucifixion, the place where the dust was collected 
from which Adarn was made; the tomb of Adam; an altar marking 
the spot where the soldiers divided the raiment of Christ; another 
dedicated to the centurion who cried out when the veil of the 
temple was rent in twain, "Truly this man was the Son of God" 
(Mark 15:39); the grotto where the walls and roof drip water, 
still weeping over the tragedy of the Crucifixion; the piece of 
marble on which Christ sat when he was mockingly made king 
and crowned with a crown of thorns; the rift in the rock made at 
the time of the Crucifixion by the earthquake; chapels on end 
plain ones hewed out of rock, ornate ernes with lights and gilded 

My first reaction to all this was that man by his inventions had 
somehow cheapened these historic spots. 

But all that feeling passed as I stood at the scene of the Crucifixion 
One sees the spot where the true cross stood. And then looking 
up he sees the picture of Christ engraved in gold and studded wirl 
gems. The two thieves flank him on lustrous crosses. The Virgir 
and Mary Magdalen are there. It does something to one of mj 
faith to stand in that place. I experienced an overwhelming feeling 
of humility and reverence. This place may not be the true site o 
the Crucifixion, as some maintain. But hundreds of thousands gav< 
their lives for it. The history of it is written in blood and tears she< 
out of the adoration which for centuries men of many language 
have had for the Prince of Peace. 

We climbed the wall of the Old City- near the Damascus gat 
and walked it for a distance under the guidance of a fat, good 
natured Arab policeman of Jerusalem. The top is about as wide a 
the average sidewalk; its sides are lined with little parapets. Th 
day we were there the Arab Legion was at strategic points alonj 

The Eternal City 259 

the wall; and sandbags marked machine-gun emplacements. For 
war with Israel was still on; an armistice had merely marked the 
end of the shooting. 

It was a clear day, cool in a breeze that swept the heights of 
Judea. All the historic spots lay at our feet places crowded with 
events which only volumes could relate. Our Arab guide pointed 
them out one by one, rattling on in the monotony of one who has 
learned his piece by heart and is bent on reciting it to the end. As 
he talked, the memories of my visit to the Mount of Olives, Geth- 
semane, the Valley of Judgment, the Golden Gate, St. Stephen s 
Gate, the Way of Sorrow, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher 
swept over me. They were so poignant that they crowded out all 
other thoughts. 

A young, well-educated Arab who was on the staff of our 
consular service accompanied us on this tour of the Old City. All 
morning he had been most attentive to our needs. Turning to him 
I said, "All of Jerusalem seems to me to be a Christian shrine. 
How can the Arabs lay claim to it?" 

Our friend spoke to the guide in Arabic and then replied to me, 
"Come, we will show you." 

We descended the wall, passed through a labyrinth of streets 
filled with tiny shops, made a short detour to see the famous 
Wailing Wall of the Jews, and then came out on an immense open 
paved court. In the middle of the court stood a mosque. 

"The Dome of the Rock," our Arab friend said. "Holier to us 
Moslems than any place except Mecca." 

The guide took over and explained that under the huge rotunda 
of the mosque is a rock. This is the rock where Abraham was going 
to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:14); it is the rock where the angel 
stood who threatened to destroy Jerusalem and was deterred by 
David (II Samuel 24:16). It is the rock from which Mohammed 
made his night journey to Heaven. The Dome of the Rock, located 
on the site of Solomon s Temple, was built for the Arabs in 
A.D. 688 by Byzantine architects. 

The young Arab interrupted to say, "I noticed that yon were 
moved when you stood at the scene of the Crucifixion. We devout 
Arabs have as great an attachment to this spot." 

We rented sandals from a priest at the door and put them on 
over our shoes before we entered the mosque. Inside it was dark 

260 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

and cool The rounded dome was covered with exquisite mosaic 
work and beautiful colored windows, each of a different design. 
The floors were carpeted. In the center of the room under the dome 
was the Rock of Ascension, enclosed in a high wooden fence. There 
was nobility and grandeur in the scene. 

The guide pointed out the mark of a foot on it Mohammed s 
foot. I wrote in my notebook at the time "size 15 or 16." Later I 
read that Mark Twain (Innocents Abroad} had called it size eight 
een. Anyway, it was a big foot. The guide s story was that the rock 
tried to follow Mohammed; but Gabriel seized it. The guide showed 
us the prints of Gabriel s fingers on the Rock huge indents. But 
as Mark Twain said, "Very few people have a grip like Gabriel." 

Our Arab friend must have noticed a look of disbelief on my 
face, for he politely said, "Those of a different faith often make 
jokes about the gossip of guides who show this place to tourists. 
But like Mecca it is a holy place to millions of us Arabs." 

Opposite the Dome of the Rock is the Temple from which Christ 
expelled the money-changers. We passed it and came to another 
mosque. There was a fountain in front, playing into a large pool. 
Here men were washing their hands and feet preparatory to enter 
ing for prayer. This mosque is younger and lesser and not as 
exquisitely done inside as the Dome of the Rock. Nor was all the 
mosaic of the walls finished in 1949. I paused for a moment at the 
door. A dozen or more men were on their knees, facing Mecca, 
bowing up and down, saying their prayers. Others were lying on 
their backs, reciting the Koran in a singsong way. 

The guide paid no attention to these worshipers. He went on, 
like a phonograph with a loud-speaker, announcing the points of 
interest. He even shouted something in Arabic at one chap who was 
in our path that evidently meant "Get out of the way." For the 
man broke off his praying and scampered. I felt uncomfortable and 

"If this is a House of God to these people," I whispered to our 
young Arab friend, "we also should treat it as such." He nodded 
and he, Bill, and I turned and went to the door, leaving our guide 
talking to himself in an alcove. 

We went out of the Old City through St. Stephen s Gate and 
stood at a vantage point overlooking the Valley of Judgment. The 
guide pointed to a skb of rock projecting a few feet high on the 

The Eternal City 261 

eastern wall of the Old City. He explained that it is the belief 
of many Arabs that on the Day of Judgment Mohammed will 
stand on that slab and Christ will stand about a mile across the 
valley on the Mount of Olives. Each will hold the end of a horse 
hair. The dead will rise and walk the hair. The wicked will fall into 
the valley. Only the righteous will reach the heights. 

I turned to our Arab friend for confirmation of the legend. He 
nodded and then said, "I have a mullah for a friend. He believes this 
legend. He thinks that on the Day of Judgment he will walk the 
horsehair. That s why he grows long curls for sideburns." 

"What have the sidebum curls got to do with it?" I asked. 

"You see, when my friend starts to walk the horsehair, angels 
will come down one on each side take hold of the curls, and 
help him keep his balance." 

This time I looked to the guide for confirmation; and at once 
I was sorry I did. For he nodded his head in violent approval. 

"This guide of ours," I whispered to Bill, "would believe any 

"Ask him about the moon and green cheese," Bill said. 

We started back to the American Colony, a hotel in the Old City 
where we were staying. 

We had not gone far when churchbells began to ring. They 
were announcing sundown. 

This was Ramadan, the month the Koran was sent down from 
Heaven. During this month (which comes at a different time each 
year) a Moslem cannot eat or drink from dawn to sunset. From this 
fast none is excused, except travelers and sick persons. The latter, 
however, must fast an equal number of days when the impediment 
is over. The bells I heard announced that the period of fast was 
done for the day. Other bells would ring at 1:30 A.M. to warn the 
people to start preparing breakfast before sun-up. My Arab friend 
excused himself, saying as he left, "Ramadan is severe on many of 
our people. Since they do not eat, drink, or smoke from dawn 
to sunset they get nervous and high-strung. There are apt to be 
street fights. It is well for Christians during Ramadan to be dis 
creet and moderate when they are in crowds or near holy places. 

In the morning we passed from the Old City to the New through 
Mandlebaum Square. On one side of the square were the Arab 

362 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

lines; on the other, the Israeli. The positions were marked by sand 
bags, barbed wire, and concrete posts set in the pavement to form 
tank traps. The houses bordering the square bore the marks of 
fighting windowpanes were out, stucco had been broken by shells, 
sandbags covered the edges of roofs, all walls bordering the square 
were pock-marked from bullets. 

Passage through the lines had been arranged. We presented our 
papers to Arab Legionnaires, and in a few minutes they were back 
in our hands. Then we moved one hundred feet across the square and 
Israeli guards went through the same process. 

The attitude in the New City was strikingly different from that 
in the Old. The Old was held by the Arabs who had lost the war. 
The New was held by the Jews who were the victors. The Arabs 
had been quiet and reflective. The Jews were bursting with energy, 
Ideas, plans. I was to learn that there was more to this psychology 
of theirs than victory on the battlefield, but victory had given a 
lift to their spirits. Yesterday had been Israeli Army Day. The parade 
near Tel Aviv had been the best of its nature that our military 
observers had seen. The Jews held their heads high; there was spring 
in their steps. 

The talk too was exuberant. A story (told to us by a member 
of dbe Israeli government) is typical of the attitude: 

A Jew who returned from Tel Aviv to New York City was asked 
how the Jews accomplished so much in Palestine. First, they created 
Israel; second, they won a war; third* they took in all the Jewish 
immigrants who applied for admission. 

"How could the Jews achieve so much?" the puzzled friend 

"There are two reasons," the returning Jew replied. "One is 
natural and the other is supernatural" 

"What was the natural one?" 

**Tfae Jews had God and justice on their side." 

**And wfaat was the supernatural one?" 

**Tfae Jews knew how to shoot." 

We toured the battlegrounds on the south and west of the Old 
Gty with the famed Colonel Moshe Dayan of the Israeli Army 
and his wife, Ruth, both of whom speak excellent English. The 
colonel, known to millions by the patch won* over one eye socket, 
k a yomg mm m his thirties. He has two main enthusiasms his 

The Eternal City 263 

family and his farm not far from Nazareth, Fighting was for him 
merely an interlude. He is a quiet, soft-spoken man, short, slender, 
and wiry. 

He explained the tactics of infiltration of small forces the key 
to the military success of the Israeli Army. This was a tactic well 
known to Arab armies, one in which they had long been skilled. 
Yet it was this tactic which defeated them, while they were trying 
to master the modern technique of mass maneuvering which Patton 
used so brilliantly in France. 

There was one hill, never taken by an attacking army in nineteen 
centuries, which Dayan and seventy soldiers took. They went at 
night in waves of not more than five. It was brave and daring fight 
ing. Twenty of the seventy were lost. But the Israeli flag flew over 
the hill at dawn. That hill commanded a strategic spot on a line of 
attack against the walls of the Old City. 

We saw position after position which had been taken, lost, and 
retaken in the fighting. Perhaps the bitterest fighting of all was at 
the Hill of Rachel. A Jewish kibbutz (communal settlement) had 
been located here. During the fighting it had changed hands six 
times. It had been fought over building by building, room by room, 
foot by foot by the Egyptians and the Jews. The structures all 
stone or concrete were a shambles. The place had been utterly 

"All except the orchards below us on the east," said Colonel 
Dayan. "Come and I will show you." 

We started to the orchards when a young Israeli noncommissioned 
soldier came running out of a lookout post and talked excitedly 
with Colonel Dayan in Hebrew. The colonel turned to me and 
said, "He says we can t go any farther." 

"Since when has a sergeant overruled a colonel?" I inquired. 

Colonel Dayan smiled as he replied, "This alert young man just 
told me that the orchard is still mined. Now wouldn t that be a bit 
inhospitable for me to get you blown to bits?" 

We returned to a shell-marked rampart overlooking the walk of 
the Old City and stood in silence for a long while watching the 
distant sky line of spires, domes, and towers. Far in the background 
was the Mount of Olives, a dark-green spot on the low-lying Moun 
tains of Judea. There was not a movement of life* anywhere to be 
seen or heard. The city looked vacant, a city of papier-mache 

264 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

built on a model for some Hollywood production. But behind those 
old walls an ancient Arab civilization thrived. Life droned on and 
on with the rhythm of the centuries. Religious fanaticism grew in the 
breasts of many. The fervor and zeal of Arab nationalism mounted. 
The Arabs behind those walls stood committed to defend with their 
lives the shrines holy to them. 

I was thinking of these things when Colonel Dayan, pointing, 
said, "There is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Along the ridge 
to the north are our medical school and university. Below them and 
out of view is Gethsemane. These historic spots must not be harmed 
or destroyed. They are ours and we must occupy them." 

We visited Em Karem, a village of three thousand people about 
twenty miles from Jerusalem. It is a quiet, country village, built on 
a ridge at the head of a draw. The village is flanked by churches 
a Franciscan church and school at one end; a Franciscan and a 
Greek Orthodox church at the other. Olive orchards fill terraces 
that line the sides of the ravine. Tall, stately cypresses with their 
dark-green spires and pine of a lighter hue line the ridge. Father 
Carrol of the Terra Santa College (Franciscan) of Jerusalem, a 
bright-eyed, brilliant priest in his thirties, was our guide. 

Ein Karem, an Arab village for hundreds of years, was the birth 
place of John the Baptist. In the recent war it was never attacked 
by the Israeli Army. It was indeed not on the path to Jerusalem. 
It had no apparent military value. Yet it was evacuated by the 
Arabs. Every man, woman, and child left all except eight old 
women. The refugees put a few personal belongings and what food 
they had in their cupboards on the backs of donkeys. They walked 
out of their ancestral homes in Ein Karem, shut the doors, and 
turned to the east. They did this, though no shot was fired, though 
their village was neither encircled nor threatened. Some went 
through Jerusalem to Jericho down the corkscrew road on the east 
that drops off Judea. Most went around the Eternal City, seeking 
a path down the precipitous Judea Mountains, fording the Jordan, 
and climbing the hot and blistering ridge of Moab, We had met 
some of them in the refugee camp at Sukhneh. 

I inquired why the exodus, and was taken to two of the old 
women in a mud hut on the edge of town. They were wrinkled, 

The Eternal City 265 

wizened, and shy, and hesitated to talk. But finally they gave the 
following explanation: 

First, there was the massacre by an irresponsible, lawless element 
of the Stern Gang at Deir Yassin in 1948, when men, women and 
children all but one in the village were killed one night. The 
massacre struck terror in the hearts of villagers throughout the 

"Some thought all of us in Ein Karem might also be killed some 
night," one old lady said as she twirled the ends of a black shawl 

Second, the villagers were told by the Arab leaders to leave. It 
apparently was a strategy of mass evacuation whether or not neces 
sary as a military or public safety measure. 

"They all left during one week," said the other lady. "Every 
morning there were more who had gone. Finally only a few of us 
were left behind. We were too old and feeble to go." There were 
tears in her eyes and her face had a weary look. 

I expected to see a ghost town. But as we started down the main 
street of Ein Karem I heard singing. 

"New arrivals from Europe," Father Carrol said. 

In a few minutes we stood at the door of a large building trans 
formed into a synagogue. A cantor was singing. A rabbi was bent 
over a lectern. Men and women were bowed in worship. 

We walked down the street. Another service was being held in 
another makeshift synagogue. We came upon yet another. The 
whole village had gone to church. An overflow of young people was 
in a class being conducted on the edge of an olive orchard near the 
center of town. 

As we returned from a visit to the chapel of Elizabeth, mother of 
John the Baptist, on the far side of the village, one of the synagogues 
was emptying. People were going back to their new homes; children 
were doing a hop, skip, and jump along the road; a rabbi, bent in 
meditation, walked slowly through the village. The men and women 
pouring out of the synagogues had faces that were happy and 

"Not many months ago these people were housed in awful 
camps in Europe," Father Carrol said. "Many barely escaped death 
at the hands of Hitler s henchmen." 

For them this was, indeed, the Promised Land. Here refugees 
from terror and agonizing death had found security, freedom, a 

266 Strange Lmds md Friendly People 

peaceful valley, and opportunity to work and live and worship 
as they chose. Their new freedom was reflected in their eyes, in 
the spring in their walk, in the laughter of their children. 

To them this village was a haven, a refuge. It did not then matter 
that Arabs at Sukhneh, some forty miles away, sat in tents dwelling 
with anger on the evacuation of Ein Karem and on the occupation 
of their ancient village by newcomers from Europe. For Ein Karem 
had been won in war. The victorious Israeli Army that swept the 
village within its lines would defend it to the death. 

To the newcomers at Ein Karem the Holy Land was a sacred 
place where scatterings of this ancient people would regather and 
reunite for the preservation of the race. Here they would bring a 
new civilization. Here they would return to the soil and rebuild 
a devastated land into a rich and flourishing garden. Here they would 
destroy the feudalism that had held the peoples of the region in 
slavery from time out of mind. This region would become a new 
tone of democracy. 

Those who reclaimed the land in this way would establish their 
right to it, their worthiness to survive. 

This was a Cause, a Crusade. It swept all before it, including 
innocent Ein Karem. It moved on to Jerusalem. Like the earlier 
Crusades it traveled on the wings of tremendous enthusiasm. Its 
call summoned men from all parts of the world. There was fervor 
ia those who faced toward Jerusalem, a fervor that would neither 
brook delay nor allow defeat. 

In 1949 the contest for Jerusalem as capital of Israel and as seat 
of the Axab government of Palestine was raging. As I have said, the 
Arabs held the OH City; the Jews the New. The Jews had not 
only poshed their front lines into Jerusalem, they had also brought 
a part of their government there. The Supreme Court of Israel, 
created in 1948, sat in Jerusalem. And on July 22, 1949, the first 
anniversary of its creation, I sat with it at a special session. 

It was Call Day whea kwyers are admitted to practice. Herman 
Cohn, State Attorney and formally dressed, presented each candi- 
ciate, In our high court admissions are moved in short cryptic 
dons. fa Israel the ceremony was more mtiftiate and personal 
. Cote would say, for example, "Martin Diga. Mr. Diga is, 
mfy speaking, a BCW immigrant. He came here from Bul- 

garia in 1944 and he has already acquired a knowledge of our 

The Eternal City 267 

language and has passed all his examinations. He was a lawyer for 
a number of years in Sofia, Bulgaria." 

Each candidate was presented in that personal manner. Each rose 
when his name was called; and then the Chief Justice, Moshe Smoira, 
granted their admissions and delivered an address of welcome. In 
his message he referred to my presence, said a word in eulogy of 
Mr. Justice Murphy, who had just died, and spoke of Mr. Justice 
Cardozo, quoting from his writings. He closed by saving that he 
hoped that Isaiah s prophecy would be fulfilled in Israel: "And I will 
restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the 
beginning; afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, 
the faithful city." 

It was a friendly, intimate session dignified but not austere 
and it had a warmth that was uncommon. For here was an ingather 
ing of exiles from many lands. They had come to reclaim Jerusalem 
and the Holy Land, to dedicate it to the freedom of man, to make 
this city a righteous one and thus to fulfill the prophecy. Like the 
Jews who manned the outposts of the Israeli Army or tilled the 
fields, these lawyers and judges were also inspired. They had a zeal, 
a drive, a purpose, a cause. They were dedicating themselves to a 
crusade in this, the Eternal City. They were laying in Jerusalem 
the foundations for the capital of the new state of Israel 

The first meeting of the Knesset (the Israeli parliament) had also 
been held in Jerusalem. But after Jerusalem came under siege, the 
seat of government was moved to Hakirya near Tel Aviv where it 
still was in the summer of 1949. Later in 1949 when the United 
Nations decided that Jerusalem should be internationalized, David 
Ben-Gurion, Premier of Israel, made an important announcement 
about the seat of the Israeli government. Ben-Gurion, short and 
stocky with a shock of white hair, is dynamic, idealistic, and 
courageous. He has some of the zeal of the Prophets. His announce 
ment carried back to an age-old conflict between Moslems and Chris 
tians over Jerusalem. 

Ben-Gurion first promised free access to all the holy places and 
the religious buildings of Jerusalem. He denounced the "enforced 
separation of Jerusalem," which he said violated without need or 
reason "the historic and natural right of the people who dwell in 
Zion." He said that under the stress of war the seat of government 
had been moved from Jerusalem to Hakirya. But he added, "For the 

268 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

State of Israel there is, has been, and always will be one capital 
only, Jerusalem, the Eternal. So it was three thousand years ago, 
and so it will be, we believe, until the end of time." 

We had seen at Jerusalem, Sukhneh, Ein Karem, and Hattin, part 
of the story of that conflict. 


38. Into Israel from the East 

MY SON and I came to Israel from the back country. We left by car 
from Amman in Trans-Jordan and corkscrewed off the barren, hot 
ledges of the Moab Mountains to Jericho and the Dead Sea where it 
was over 120 degrees. The dry hills of Moab on the east of the 
Jordan and those of Judea on the west were as hot as furnace walls. 
I could feel through the soles of my shoes the heat of the gravel 
on the shores of the Dead Sea. 

We had been in a blistering heat for most of our journey: Syria, 
Iraq and Persia had seared us; and some mornings on our pack trips 
in the mountains of Persia I had wakened with my face swollen 
and eyes closed from sunburn. We were refugees from the sun 
who had traveled treeless ridges and basins for days on end. 

We had seen in the country to the east of Israel the most ancient 
of agricultural methods. There were exceptions. But almost every 
farmer was using a wooden stick and oxen to plow, hand sickles to 
reap, and primitive thrashing floors for separating the grain from the 

I had seen the heavy mark of government of the landlords, for 
the landlords, and by the landlords on the land. People lived in 
squalor with no opportunity of escape. Some men owned two hun 
dred, six hundred, fifteen hundred villages apiece. They owned 
every piece of property in these villages: the mud houses, the com 
munity bathhouses, the fields, the animals and the water that serviced 
them, the farming utensils. They even owned the people who, for 


Strange Lands and Friendly People 

all practical purposes, were their serfs. The peasants voted as their 
landlord dictated. Some landlords controlled 500,000 votes and cast 
them in a way that would perpetuate their control. 

This is the sordid side. There are wonderful things about the 
Middle East the people and their civilizations. But the features I 
have mentioned heat, treeless land, primitive agriculture, and the 
squalor of a vicious tenancy were prominent in my mind the day 
I traveled the tortuous road that climbs thirty-eight hundred feet 
from Jericho to Jerusalem. 

One who reaches Jerusalem in that mood undergoes a transforma 
tion. Jerusalem, standing on top of the Mountains of Judea, is a 
refuge from the torrid heat of the interior. There are cool breezes 
here and the shade of pepper trees, cypress, and pine. Historians say 
that the location of Jerusalem makes no sense by any standard of 
commerce, trade, or economy. But when one reaches it from the 
desert side it has special spiritual values. 

When I dropped off the Mountains of Judea down the road to 
Rehovoth and Tel Aviv, I began to get the feel of a different environ 
ment. It came in simple ways. The western slopes of Judea are as 
heavily eroded as the eastern side. It has in many places been scrubbed 
clean of soil and one sees for miles only the exposed shoulders of 
limestone. This is typical Middle East scenery. But now I saw a 
change. There were occasionally new stands of pine twelve feet high! 
I saw freshly planted forests on barren limestone ledges! 

Next I saw a hay baler in operation in a field the first sign 
of modern agriculture that I had seen in weeks. It was being run 
by a young Jewish farmer. Soon I saw tractors; they too were being 
run by Jews. But shortly I came to a farm operated by an Arab 
whose kafiyeh was flying in the wind as he too plowed with a 

There were neat modern houses next to old mud huts where 
poverty-ridden villages had stood for centuries. 

I saw chicken farms, compact, highly modernized. 

I saw bare slopes being planted with young orchards. 

When I reached Rehovoth I saw the Weizmann Institute, a highly 
modern laboratory for research. I talked with its founder and the 
President of the Republic. He is a chemist turned politician. He 
said with feeling that politics was the more important part of his 
fife, much more important than his earlier career as a chemist. 

Into Israel -from the East 271 

When I saw the Institute I wondered if he were correct. His 
genius as a scientist has loosed on the manifold problems of the 
Middle East a whole arsenal of talent. I saw the staff at work on 
various projects in physics and chemistry for example, a plan for 
making nylon out of the castor bean and developing a species of 
the tree that will make large-scale production possible. Others 
were working on a low-cost method of taking salt from water, not 
only for drinking purposes but for irrigation. (Present methods 
cost about $1.40 per cubic meter of water.) This project strikes 
at one of Israel s basic problems, for the lack of surface water in the 
plains is as acute as the loss of soil on the hillsides. Israel s agricul 
tural problems are indeed reducible to those two simple facts. Per 
haps the laboratories at Rehovoth will produce a formula that will 
in time make Israel self-sufficient. 

Some of the gains I saw had been started by the British under 
the mandate. The British had instituted the tethering of goats. 
They also created forest reserves and made many plantings of pine, 
oak and carobs. They planted cypress as windbreaks and they cov 
ered sand dunes with acacias and tamarisk. What the British did 
in this respect the early Jewish colonists did to an even greater 
degree. Out of 50,000 donums (4 doniims equal i acre) afforested 
during the period of the mandate 37,900 donums were afforested by 
the colonists. And the people of the new State of Israel took it up 
with tremendous zeal and energy. The whole nation is tree con 
scious. Everyone plants trees, as did Abraham, who "planted a grove 
in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the Lord . . ." (Genesis 
21:33.) In the three years following independence ten million trees 
have been planted. 

The road is long and the undertaking is tremendous. In Decem 
ber, 1950, there were 1,336,000 people in Israel of whom 1,161,000 
were Jews. In the time of Jesus the larger area of Palestine had 
5,000,000 people. In A.D. 1000 it was double the number today. What 
were pine forests even one hundred years ago are sand dunes now. 
Several feet of topsoil have rushed to the ocean. It will take time 
and the best of science and land management to restore the ancient 
fertility of the land and to create industrial wealth. 

Today everyone in Israel seems conservation minded. There is a 
passionate endeavor in each community to reverse the cycle of ero 
sion, to rebuild the land, to grow food for an expanding society. 

2*12 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

Some 20 per cent of the total Jewish population of Israel is engaged 
in farming. Those people make conservation their first business. So 
does everyone else, whatever his calling. Every man, woman, and 
child is united in the cause, as though putting out a fire that would 
consume them. 

It is this atmosphere of great events in the making, of unity of 
purpose and activity that I felt as I reached the coastal plain of 
Israel. Grim causes had united the Jews in this endeavor. If the 
people in the countries to the east of Israel were given the incentive 
to reclaim their lands, if the same release of energies and direction 
of power could be achieved there, the whole of the Middle East 
would experience a renaissance. In every country I had visited there 
were people eager to undertake it. 

39. Israel Experiments 

ISRAEL S ATTITUDE is experimental, not dogmatic. One can be as 
passionate for private capitalism as he chooses, or he can espouse 
and practice a socialist philosophy more extreme in some respects 
than even Soviet Russia s. Israel s tolerance is indeed one of its most 
impressive qualities. The Soviets thrust their dogma down the throats 
of all men. Israel leaves the choice to the individual; no creed is 
forced on anyone. And in Israel, unlike Soviet Russia and most 
Middle East countries, one finds the finest traditions of civil liber 
ties as we know them in the Anglo-American world. One may write 
and speak as freely as he wants, within the bounds of decency. The 
legislative and executive branches of government do not have free 
rein. The Supreme Court of Israel sits in review of their actions. 
One of the first acts of the newly created Supreme Court was to 
enjoin a cabinet officer who exceeded the authority set by law. 

An Arab, Abu Lubao, had been arrested and held incommunicado 
for some weeks. The Court held the arrest illegal and said, "The 
government is subject to the law in the same manner as any citizen 
of the state." 

Israel has a wide variety of economic organizations. 
i. Many individual -farmers and businessmen own and run their 
farms or factories and embrace private capitalism as devoutly as any 
one in America. They have a Farmers Federation which functions 
somewhat as a Grange in this country, and which also offers services 
in the marketing of produce, the purchasing of supplies, and the 
rental of machinery. Forty per cent of the agricultural population is 
in this category. 

2. Many farmers (27 per cent of the agricultural population) are 
organized into formal co-operatives. The individual owns the land; 
the co-operative does the procurement or marketing or both. The 

Strange Lands and Friendly People 

aim is increased efficiency and lower costs. A co-operative among 
poultry fanners will market the eggs and the meat, and buy the 
grain and chicken coops. A co-operative among dairy farmers will 
own the creamery, process the milk, and make the butter and cheese. 

3. The kibbutz is a communal settlement (30 per cent of the agri 
cultural population live in these); and it is probably more strictly 
socialistic than the collective farms in Russia. In Russia, while all 
fanners are on collective farms, most of them have a small plot of 
land. There they may grow what they like and sell it on the market. 
They also have separate homes and kitchens. 

In a kibbutz, however, everything is communal. Families have 
no separate houses, kitchens, gardens, or bathhouses. The kibbutz 
has a common kitchen and a common dining room where everyone 
eats. It has a nursery where all children are placed shortly after 
birth, and nurses who care for them. Parents are with their children 
only at day s end and on week ends. The kibbutz has schools and 
playgrounds; furnishes doctors and medical services; owns all the 
land and all the produce. It is managed by a council or board 
(usually five members) elected annually by a vote of all the mem 
bers. They determine the allotment of work for the members in 
the kitchen, the machine shed, the orchards, and so on. They also 
determine what crops shall be raised and how the funds shall be 

No member of a kibbutz receives any dividend at the end of a 
year or any other period. He has no need for cash while he is in 
the kibbutz. The communal store supplies his wants clothing, ciga 
rettes, shaving cream, shoes, writing paper, needles, and the normal 
range of consumer goods. Members of some of the older kibbutzim 
are not on rations; they may draw as heavily on the store as their 
needs dictate. In the new kibbutzim, however, the resources are so 
limited that rationing is required. 

Each member of a kibbutz receives an annual vacation usually 
two weeks; and he is allowed so much cash for that purpose. Each 
member is cared for until he dies, whether he stays well or becomes 
a cripple or is bedridden. He receives the same food, the same store 
privileges, and all the other perquisites of the kibbutz that every 
other member receives. The kibbutz, in other words, offers security 
tibrough sickness and old age. 

There are many types of kibbutzim-^some formed from reli- 

Israel Experiments 

gious groups, some small and restricted, others large. Though each 
kibbutz is always an agricultural organization, it often has an indus 
trial aspect too. One kibbutz may have a creamery, another a fruit- 
processing plant, another a printing plant, and so on. These indus 
trial projects are also collectivized; the governing committee assigns 
members to work in them; and their profits are owned by the com 
munity, not by the individuals. 

4. There is an agricultural organization known as the moshav- 
shitufi which has elements both of the kibbutz and the co-operative* 
This too is a communal settlement engaged in farming; and like the 
kibbutz, it frequently has an industrial or commercial project also. 
Each family, however, is maintained as a unit; there is no nursery 
for the children; each couple has a house with a private kitchen and 
dining room; each family has a small plot of ground where vege 
tables and flowers can be grown, though none may be sold on die 
market. All production is for the account of the community; and in 
other respects too the pattern of the kibbutz is followed. It has 
drawn to date 3 per cent of the agricultural population. 

5. The Jewish National Fund, another unique institution, was 
founded by the Zionists in 1901 and was incorporated in England 
for the purchase of land in Palestine and for its cultivation and main 
tenance. The land acquired is to be chiefly agricultural. It is never 
to be sold or mortgaged but remains the property of Jewish people 
for all time. It is rented on forty-nine-year leases at low rates with 
renewal provisions 2 per cent of the value in case of rural land. 
The scheme has manifold purposes: to return the Jews to Palestine 
and settle them on the land; to keep the land under Jewish manage 
ment; to avoid the large landholdings which result in many workers 
becoming hired hands; to avoid mortgage foreclosures and the loss 
of land; to avoid death duties and the liquidation of estates; to dedi 
cate increased increments of value to the community rather than 
to the individual landowner. 

The purchases of land by the National Fund have been extensive. 
Today it owns close to 25 per cent of the arable land in Israel and 
about two-thirds of the acreage actually cultivated in 1949-1950. It 
started early to plant trees and has since its beginning promoted 
afforestation projects. It has drained swamps and reclaimed land, 
constructed roads, installed water systems, and engaged in extensive 

Strange Lmds md Friendly People 

Most of the land is rented to Jews, although the National Fund 
to some Arab tenants. For example, in July, 1949, the first 
Arab kibbutz was formed on land of the National Fund. Whoever 
the tenant may be, the National Fund watches over the management 
of the land. The leases provide that the National Fund may reduce 
the acreage. Twenty-five acres may prove to be too much for one 
farmer to operate; a new water supply may make the need for the 
large unit unnecessary; a different use of the land may produce more 
food or food whose shortage is critical, etc. During recent years 
when immigration to Israel has been high, the National Fund has 
reshuffled many leaseholds, working for the best utilization of the 
land. I visited a chicken farm at Ramataim (not far from Tel Aviv) 
where the National Fund had reduced holdings down to one acre 
per family. Modern American equipment had been introduced and 
a highly concentrated operation was under way. New immigrants 
were assigned to the excess land. 

6. Histadrut is a trade union of unique character and great pro 
portions. It has so many projects, so many different lines of activity, 
so diversified a membership that some in Israel call it a state within 
a state. 

The Histadrut goes back to 1920 when several unions with a 
membership of forty-four hundred merged to form it, the purpose 
being to establish a Jewish laboring community in Palestine. Taking 
in all workers, it served the conventional ends of trade unionism 
better working conditions, higher wages, and the like but its pur 
pose did not end there. Formed when the British controlled the 
Ia0d under the mandate, it undertook to prepare the land for the 
return of the Jews to Palestine and to help bring them there. Its 
program was to aid the mobilization of the country around the 
Zionist cause. And so it launched into manifold activities. Today 
Hidnit has departments or branches that cover a wide range of 
activities and directly affects the lives of all the people in Israel. 

For iiistaiice, it has formed well over one hundred co-operatives 
in tfie fields of transportation, waterworks, metalworking, electrical 
products* building materials, printing, woodworking, tailoring, 
restaurants, weaving, and the like. 

Histadnit furnishes medical care not only to its trade union 
members but to anyone in Israel who pays the monthly fee. This 
service covers all the ilk of the family, dental and medical, and takes 

Israel Experiments 277 

care of operations, obstetrical cases, physical therapy, X-rays, and 
everything in the medical and surgical line. Histadrat has sani 
tariums, pharmacies, and hospitals. When new settlements are 
formed, Histadrut contracts for the furnishing of medical care to 
them, employing the doctors and nurses and assigning them to one 
or more settlements, depending on the population and needs. The 
settlements pay Histadrut an annual fee. All in all, in 1950 Histadrut 
was furnishing medical care to 50 per cent of the people of Israel. 

Histadrut s educational branch has established many schools 
which provide instruction from kindergarten through high school. It 
also has numerous trade schools, and conducts extensive physical 
education projects. Its youth movement trains young men and 
women for life in Israel, finds placement for them, provides sum 
mer camps, excursions, forums and the like. Histadrut has a women s 
branch, training women for the farms and for absorption in other 
phases of life in Israel. It also has established child welfare centers, 

One of its most interesting projects is at Onim a youth center 
near Tel Aviv where children whose parents are missing are as 
sembled. In this school there are eight beds to a room, modern 
kitchens, excellent sanitation, beautiful lawns and gardens, play 
grounds, a swimming pool, and skilled psychiatrists. Three hundred 
children were living there the day we visited the place. Some had 
come from behind the Iron Curtain, many had been picked up in 
Germany, Morocco, and Yugoslavia. They are kept here for about 
six months; then the healthy ones whose parents are not located are 
turned over to settlements. Those poorly adjusted are given special 

Jacob Aronson, twelve years old, came from Yugoslavia. His 
mother found him here six years after her search began. One boy 
had lost his speech; one boy had been tied to a tree since he was 
young and now walked like an ape; many had nervous disorders from 
the terror and suffering they had known. 

Histadrut has an organization that contracts with settlements for 
the purchase of their supplies foodstuffs, feed for livestock, farm 
machinery and the like its fee varying from 3 per cent upward, 
depending on the article. This wholesale purchasing provides great 
savings. It also has marketing agencies that sell the produce of the 
fields both at home and abroad, the fee for this service running 

^7 8 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

around 6 or 6 l / 2 per cent. These agencies market well over 70 per 
cent of the agricultural produce of Israel. 

The policy of the National Fund is to lease to one person no 
more land than he and his family can work. If a lessee has so much 
land that he needs a hired man to help out, the amount of leased 
land is reduced. It is a cardinal principle in Israel that when possible 
every man shall be an owner, that the employee class shall be kept at 
a minimum. This is designed to increase the dignity and worth of 
all work and to prevent the exploitation of the employee class. 
Nevertheless, some agricultural crops, notably citrus, require con 
siderable labor, both regular and seasonal. Histadrut undertook to 
organize and protect that labor supply. It formed a branch which 
contracts with farmers to pick, pack, and ship fruit for a price. 
This branch organized settlements for these unattached workers 
and in addition to contracting for their labor, founded new indus 
tries for them (fruit canning and manufacture of tiles and pipes). 

Histadrut has a department engaged in finding water and dis 
tributing it to settlements. It has numerous wells and vast distribu 
tion systems throughout Israel. 

It also owns some industries and is a partner with private capital 
in others. It is owner or part owner of companies making oils, soap, 
shoes, sugar, rubber goods, bricks, cement, sanitary earthenware, 
glass, pharmaceutical supplies, electrical machinery; owner or a 
partner of wool processing and weaving plants, a sugar-beet factory, 
a large modern foundry, a tool and machine factory, a ship-repairs 
plant. It has daily newspapers and periodicals, a publishing house, 
and a theater. 

These days one department of Histadrut, the owner, negotiates 
with another department of Histadrut, the trade union, over work 
ing conditions and wages. There is real collective bargaining and 
vigorous trade union representation. But in Israel when labor is a 
partner in industry there seems to be a large degree of industrial 

Histadrut likewise has departments that do almost every kind of 
construction work road building and paving, quarrying, draining 
swamps, laying rails, building factories, houses, and apartments. The 
housing unit operates on a nonprofit basis. It plans development 
work and housing projects. 

The Workers Bank formed by Histadrut has supplied credit for 

Israel Experiments 

p ast agricultural projects, industrial enterprises, producers and con- 
umers co-operatives, housing, etc. Histadrut has credit and savings 
:o-operatives that make loans to workers. It also has an institution 
Nir) to extend agrarian credit, to finance workers housing units, 
nd to establish new agricultural settlements and help finance their 
nanif old activities. And finally Histadrut is in the insurance business 
hrough Hassneh life, fire, accident, burglary, workmen s com- 
>ensation, and maritime insurance. 

The supreme body of Histadrut is the General Convention, to 
yhich all affiliated groups send delegates on a proportional basis. The 
Convention, which meets every three years, elects the General 
Council. The managerial group is the Central Executive Committee 
ppointed annually by the General Council. 

Histadrut may in time have many of its functions taken over by 
he government of Israel. To date it has rendered invaluable services 
o the cause of Zionism, translating into concrete measures the 
dealism of the Zionists. More than any other group, it is responsible 
or the actual reclamation and settlement of Israel. It has developed 
he co-operative form of organization to a degree not equaled any- 
vhere else in the world. 

Israel is experimenting in numerous ways with the ancient 
>roblem of landownership and management. Its experiments are not 
deological ventures; they were born of the necessities of the Zionist 
:ause. The needs that gave rise to the various forms of co-operative 
>rojects are manifold. What served Israel may well be of slight use 
Isewhere. But Israel is a vivid demonstration center showing that 
here is no one road to economic salvation and social justice. 

We in America are apt to think that the world is choosing sides 
Between private enterprise and communism. Vast portions of the 
vorld notably the Middle East and southeast Asia feel no such 
impulsion. They seek solutions best suited to the genius of their 
)eople. Their way will not necessarily be our way when it comes to 
iconomic organization. This does not mean it will be any the less 
levoted to democratic standards or any the less respectful of human 
ights and the dignity of man. What Israel has done proves that. 

40. "From Dan even to Beersheba" 

ISRAEL is a small country geographically. Its length as the crow 
flies is about 260 miles; its width varies from 5 to 70 miles. It 
is indeed a thin and irregular stretch of coastal plain pressed against 
the Mediterranean. Jerusalem pardy held by the Arabs and partly 
by the Jews is less than 40 miles from the sea and lies at the 
end of a long finger of land protruding into Arab-held territory. 
Israel runs east to the Jordan from Dan on the north to a point 
below Kefar Rupin on the south. But the rest of the Jordan Valley 
is in Arab hands. Israel extends halfway up the west side of the 
Dead Sea, the upper portion being held by the Arabs. And Israel 
includes the whole of the Negev (the wilderness of Zin) that runs 
through sand and wasteland to the Gulf of Aqaba. 

It is only 175 miles or so from Dan to Beersheba; and it is in that 
tofig narrow corridor of land that most of the people live and that 
Israel s agricultural and industrial projects flourish. Yet the Negev 
is important to Israel too; and there are significant developments 
even in this desert south of Beersheba. 

Dan is at the head of the upper valley of the Jordan, the furthest 
uorth of any village in Galilee. Mount Hermon towers over it on 
the northeast. Here the Jordan rises and starts its journey to the 
Dead Sea. In these headwaters it is a small purling stream pouring 
through deep channels lined with grass and shrubs. The valley that 
it enters is hemmed on the west by the Mountains of Judea and on 
the east; by the Mountains of Moab. It is a place that is pleasant to 
the eye* The hills, though mostly bare, are soft and rolling, and 
below them in the valky is some of the rich topsoil that has washed 
down. There is the mark of fertility on the basin. It has long stretches 
of marshland that presented acute malaria-control problems; some 
of k has been reclaimed, and some has been developed into fish 


"From Dan even to Beersheba" 281 

ponds where carp are raised for food. Most of the land, however, 
from Dan to the Sea of Galilee and from the Sea of Galilee on south 
along the Jordan is cultivated. 

It was just below Dan at Kefar Giladi that I saw my first kibbutz. 
This kibbutz was one of the earliest, having been founded in 1914, 
and for years had only several hundred members. By 1949 it had 
grown to 750 as a result of the absorption of new immigrants. This 
collective owns a few thousand acres, most of which is reclaimed 
wasteland one thousand acres or more in grain, one hundred in 
fodder, one hundred in fruit, one hundred in vegetables and one 
hundred in fish ponds. It has four hundred sheep, two hundred 
cattle, four thousand laying hens, but few horses or mules, the 
entire farming operation being mechanized. Kefar Giladi is a modern 
farm, well-managed, and beautifully maintained a thriving, hustling, 
prosperous place. 

Kefar Giladi is governed by a board of five, elected annually. 
Under the board of five is a committee composed of representatives 
of each division of labor cooks, mechanics, orchard men, etc. 
These groups handle all administrative matters assignment of work, 
contracts with the Histadrut, investment of funds, and the like. 

One of the elders of this kibbutz is Elizer Kroll who looks like 
Moses. He is a quiet, dignified, pleasant man. When I was there, he 
was over seventy years old; his responsibilities for work had ended 
and the kibbutz would care for him the rest of his life. He had 
seen dozens of babies born at Kefar Giladi babies who were de 
livered on birth to the communal nursery and raised by nurses 
rather than by their parents. I had heard friends say in Tel Aviv 
th^t they would not want their children raised that way. At Kefar 
Giladi I talked with boys in the late teens who had been raised in 
its communal nurseries and were now members of the kibbutz. The 
kibbutz to them was the ideal life. They flourished in it and wanted 
their children raised by the same formula. 

I talked with Yetta Caller, who came out of Brooklyn some 
years back to join Kefar Giladi, and is now one of its guiding 
influences. She said that a few had tired of the kibbutz and left. 
(A withdrawing member receives no liquidating dividend.) Yet the 
vast majority had stayed on for thirty-five years, growing old 
and spending their declining years in idleness and relaxation. 

I asked Yetta Caller what happened when a member of the kib- 

z8z Strange Lands arid Friendly People 

btttz turned out to be a gifted pianist or engineer or showed other 
talents that the agricultural enterprise of the kibbutz would not 
satisfy. That is a problem with which the kibbutz is wrestling. A 
more prosperous kibbutz sends its gifted members to the university 
at the expense of the kibbutz; others try to provide some sort of 
training within the limits of their means and the availability of 
teachers. Yetta Caller was not sure what the adjustment would be at 
Kefar Giladi. 

Below Kefar Giladi are other kibbutzim orchards of pears and 
apricots, wide fields of cucumbers, large fishponds. Men and women, 
working in the fields, almost invariably wear shorts of blue, the 
color that marks the agricultural worker in Israel. We stopped and 
talked with them and made a long visit at Ashdot Yacov, a 
kibbutz south of Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. It was started in 
1935 and now has a membership of twelve hundred people, six 
hundred of whom are below nineteen years of age. This kibbutz 
comprises about a thousand acres, in grapes, fodder, bananas, 
vegetables, citrus, and mixed produce. It has hundreds of sheep, 
goats, and cows, thousands of chickens, and several fishponds. It 
also has a fruit-processing plant where fruit juices, jams, and jellies 
are made, and where fruit and vegetables are canned. Fruit and 
vegetables from a wide area are processed here. 

I sat in the shade eating watermelons and talking with Jacob 
Schur about this collective farm and its problems. He was proud 
of this thriving project; there were plans afoot for bringing new 
lands under cultivation; new water pipes were being laid and bull 
dozers were doing grading. He spoke of these things and he also 
mentioned with pride the development of a library for the kibbi#z. 
People come in from the fields at 5 P.M.; there is the problem of 
their entertainment and recreation. The kibbutz is on a circuit of 
music, operas, and movies; there is a program of dancing and games; 
there are some sports for the younger set. 

I talked with Jacob Schur about the problem of pleasing every 
individual in a kibbutz, of having enough variety to satisfy the 
great diversity of tastes. 

"Could I get at the store of the kibbutz my favorite brand of 

"No, we have only one kind." 

"Same for toothpaste, lotions, underwear?" 

"From Dan even to Beersheba" 283 

"Yes. A member can have as much as he wants in quantity; but 
we have to standardize our purchases and restrict the variety/ 

"Suppose I don t smoke but enjoy a cocktail. Can I get it or the 
ingredients at the kibbutz?" 

"No. We sometimes have wine; but no hard liquor is distributed. n 

"Some would not like that." 

"That s true; but the collective farm in Israel, unlike Russia, is 
voluntary," Jacob Schur replied. "One need not join unless he 
wants to." 

We had come to the Sea of Galilee by way of Haifa and Safad. 
Safad is an ancient town that sits like a fort on the dome of a high 
hill. It looks impregnable; yet the Israeli Army took it one night 
with a small group who knew the tactics of infiltration. Safad has 
interesting features: an ancient synagogue and old colorful houses 
set along narrow passageways that climb at dizzy pitches up the 
hillside. It is also distinguished for a beautiful rest center which 
the Histadrut maintains there. In summer it is always cool in the 
shade of cypress and pine that flourish on this high hilltop. 

We returned to Haifa from the Sea of Galilee by way of Nazareth. 
Someone said that Nazareth clings "like a whitewashed wasp nest 
to the hillside"; and so it does. And to one of the Christian faith 
it is a hallowed place where the cries of hawkers and the clanging 
of artisans seem discordant. 

Below Nazareth is Nahalal which lies at the head of the valley 
of Esraeldon. This is a pleasant, fertile spot where the famous 
Colonel Moshe Dayan and his attractive and brilliant wife Ruth 
live. Nahalal has eighty families, each having twenty-five acres 
leased from the National Fund. Dayan has chickens, turkeys, cows. 
These farmers pool their resources and own farm machinery in 
common; they also purchase co-operatively and market co-oper 
atively through the Histadrut. At Nahalal one hears only praise for 
this form of organization. "We are more independent than members 
of a kibbutz," Ruth Dayan told me. 

I visited numerous co-operative villages in the central part of 
Israel: Ramot Hashavim, where seventy families have forty thousand 
chickens; Beit Yitzhak, settled by professional and business men 
from Europe, who raise chickens, eggs, and dairy products; Kefar 
Warburg, where one hundred families do diversified farming and 
raise mostly hay and grain; Richon Le Zion where citrus fruit, 

2& Strmge Lmds and Friendly People 

almonds, and grapes are raised and where the community owns a 
co-operative winery; Nira, where two hundred families have a 
knitting mill and raise fruit, vegetables, and chickens on small hold 
ings. Most of these use Histadrut to make their purchases and to 
market their produce. 

I heard in each of these co-operatives what Ruth Dayan had 
said: that the co-operative method of farming is the best of all 
because the members have more independence. Mrs. Sonia Rosen- 
blum summed it up. She lives with her husband and three children 
at Kefar Warburg, but before that they had been in a kibbutz for 
seven years. She and her family like the co-op best. "We re not 
tied down by the rigid life of a collective," she said. 

I learned at Beit Yitzhak that the professional men make the best 
farmers; that they are far superior even to those who were farmers 
in Europe. And to my surprise I learned that of the professional 
men probably the lawyer has turned out to be the best farmer of 
them all. 

At Ramot Hashavim I found that one of the major tasks of the 
co-op was to provide movies, lectures, and concerts for the villagers. 
William Stern, one of the leading villagers, who moved to Palestine 
from Germany when Hitler first came to power, talked with me 
about the cultural and educational life in these villages. He summed 
it up in these words, "A German Jew must always be learning 

At Nathanya, I learned something of the pull of Palestine. 
I talked with M. D. Lipsitz, a United States citizen whose home had 
been in Detroit for years, a prosperous businessman, who had pulled 
up all his roots in Michigan and is now operating a four-acre chicken 
farm in Israel I told him I could understand why Jews from Poland, 
Germany, Austria, and Russia flocked to Palestine. "But why did 
you?" I asked. "You had happiness and security in America, nothing 
from which to flee." 

He thought awhile and then said, "I guess it was the call of the 

Mrs. Leah Landu and her husband had lived in a kibbutz for thir 
teen years, then left it and joined the Nira co-op. Their son, how 
ever, hastened back to a kibbutz when he turned eighteen. She 
tatted about the pros and cons of the kibbutz. She and her husband 
had hated to sacrifice the contributions they had made to the kib- 

"From Dan even to Beersheba" 285 

butz during those years; they had made the change and incurred 
the sacrifice only after much deliberation. 

"What finally induced you to leave?" 

"The lack of privacy. My husband got terribly tired of sitting 
down at the same table with the same people three times a day year 
after year." 

I asked her why her son returned to a kibbutz. Her reply, which 
was verified the length and breadth of Israel, was revealing. 

"The people who like the kibbutz best are those under thirty and 
over fifty." 

Those under thirty are caught up with a new idea and a crusade. 
Those over fifty have the longing for security: no worry about 
rent, heat, food, clothes, medical care, or insurance. Those between 
thirty and fifty want to be on their own. 

I asked Mrs. Landu if she and her husband regretted their resig 
nation from the kibbutz. Her answer was slow in coming because 
she was perplexed. 

"We are near fifty now; and the work does not let up a bit. We 
go from dawn till dark. Last winter my husband was very sick. I 
do not know how long we can continue at this rate." She added 
rather wistfully, "It would be nice to be back in the kibbutz with 
everything provided for if my husband could only stand eating 
in the community dining room." 

This matter of privacy for the family has transcending impor 
tance to many. The privilege of withdrawing from the community 
at day s end and reuniting the family group for exchange of con 
fidences, bestowal of sympathy, and renewal of affection is neces 
sary for some. It was the force behind the moshav-shitufi move 
ment the combination of the kibbutz and the co-operative in 
which each family has its own house, garden, dining room, and 

I visited this new and different kind of settlement. One of the 
leading ones is Kef ar Monash located not far from Tel Aviv. Started 
in 1946 by young soldiers, it now has around fifty families who cul 
tivate three hundred acres. Rye and vegetables are grown; the col 
lective has quite a few milk cows, a growing dairy industry, and a 
printing plant with modern, up-to-date machinery. There is no 
community nursery. Each family has its own house a man and 
wife with one child has a one-room house with kitchenette; if there 

2 86 Strmge Lmds md Friendly People 

are two or more children, the family gets another room. A young 
man named Ahron Goren with whom I talked told me that this 
kind of collective is growing in popularity; it offers the security 
people crave and the privacy that many must have. He summed it 
up this way: "Now we can have our eggs burned if we want them 
that way." 

But at Kvutsat Saad and Revivim in the Negev I saw the kibbutz in 
new perspective. Kvutsat Saad is west of Beersheba, a few miles from 
Gaza, It is a kibbutz of a religious group; thirty families operate 
about five hundred acres and grow mostly hay and grain. There is 
an altar in the communal dining room and on it a lighted candle in 
memory of one of their members killed in battle. Kvutsat Saad was 
behind the Egyptian lines for a year. The members lived under 
ground in dugouts after their village was destroyed in battle. Thirty- 
five men and women held out until the Israeli Army retook the 
place. I visited their underground homes and found the prize unit 
of them all an underground bakery run by a Diesel engine. This 
kibbutz was supplied by convoys of armored cars that ran the 
Egyptian lines at night. 

A group of young men and women eager and devoted- 
gathered round as I left. I asked why they stuck it out during the 
war, why they risked the running of the lines. A young chap 
answered me, "You see we are more than a settlement. Our kibbutz 
had military value. So long as we could keep an active unit behind 
the enemy s lines we were a thorn in his side." 

Beersheba, a bustling town of ten thousand, lies at the head of the 
desert that stretches to the Gulf of Aqaba. Here is where Abraham 
pitched his tents at the end of his long, hot journey from Babylon, 
A paved highway runs south to Egypt through one of the most 
desolate stretches in the Middle East a desertic steppe from one 
thousand to two thousand feet high, cut with gullies and washes 
and dotted with hdloxylon articulatum, a low shrub that looks like 
the bkterbush, and a saltbush (atriplex). No matter the time of 
year this is a dreary, unattractive region. Yet a group of youngsters 
from the Histadrat are trying to make some of it into a garden. 
One such place is Revivim, 

About twenty-five miles south of Beersheba is a small deserted 
vffiage by the name of Bir Asluj. One turns right here and goes 
two and a half miles on a dirt road to the dusty kibbutz of Revivim. 

"From Dan even to Beersheba" 287 

This is rich loamy land with dirt as fine as flour that rises around 
one when he walks and swirls in clouds with even a light wind. 
Wind here is a considerable problem. The kibbutz has planted many 
rows of trees for windbreaks: tamarisk and acacia which are native 
to the region and the long-needle, dark-green casmrina imported 
from Australia. 

The only water at Revivim comes from a well that is slighdy 
salty. The hundred members of the kibbutz drink the water and 
now prefer it to the sweet water they could have if they operated 
the distiller that they possess. The salt water is sufficiently sweet 
for irrigating olives, date palms, and pomegranates. Young orchards 
of these fruit trees seem to be thriving. The only other water supply 
is the flash floods which usually come off the Judea Mountains in 
March. The members of the kibbutz have built concrete diversion 
sluices, which carry the water into a reservoir lined with asphalt. 
This supply is usually sufficient for their vegetables and Sudanese 
hay, which grows knee high and is very nutritious. 

Revivim, like Kvutsat Saad, was underground in dugouts during 
the war. It was behind Egyptian lines for several months, and 
was supplied with food by air and by convoys that ran the 
lines. During this period the men of Revivim would raid the 
Egyptian headquarters at Bir Asluj at night, getting guns and 
ammunition. Despite eight casualties, about thirty men and women 
stuck it out, manning the dugouts and fighting pitched battles by 
day and raiding at night. 

When we were there, they were in die midst of a building 
program. They had moved out of the dugouts into tents and 
temporary buildings of stone and wood A makeshift shower room 
(with plenty of salt water for bathing) had been constructed. A 
large square stone tower that served as a lookout and citadel during 
the war had been converted into a library and a small factory for 
making clothes. 

We stayed all night and had tea, bread, jam, sausage, and potatoes 
for dinner. These were young people in their twenties, most of 
them married. They were zealots -hardy, intelligent, determined 
Most of them had never been to America; and they were filled with 
curiosity about it curiosity and bewilderment too. 

Why was America getting ready to fight Russia? Did America 
think that war was the only way of solving an unemployment 

288 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

problem? Why is America against everything that is socialistic? Why 
isn t a kibbutz a wholesome project? Is there anything evil in col 
lective security? Why do some Americans think Israel has gone 
communistic because it has promoted co-operative schemes and col 
lective farms? Isn t America willing to receive new ideas? Must we 
all be private enterprisers and worship capitalism? 

These were the questions fired at me after dinner, as we sat for 
a couple of hours holding a seminar on world events. These were 
youngsters who had lived underground in a parched desert and 
fought for their new freedom. They were militant cross-examiners. 
They would not take platitudes about democracy without question. 
They were interested in solving the problems of the Middle East 
to avoid the ugliness and oppression of communism. Yet they 
wondered why America thought it could remake the world in its 

After the discussion I stepped out into the darkness and walked 
die desert. The stars hung low this night and shone with the brilliance 
of Persian stars; a thin slice of the moon showed over Egypt; a cool 
wind swept in from the ocean. On my return I mounted a small 
hillock and stood listening to the night sounds of the desert. Sud 
denly a tremendous chorus sounded from the dining hall. These 
ycrang folks were singing. The voices were exultant and triumphant; 
they had the ring of determined men and women marching to 
victory. This was a chorus of crusaders who would not be turned 

Israel is the product of a crusade. It has many problems, includ 
ing that of making a jtast peace with the Arabs so that taxes can go 
to Ac land rather than to armaments. Not all of Israel s political 
problems are easy of solution, for its eleven political parties have 
madte a coalition government necessary. There is the problem of 
water and topsoil and the development of productivity so that the 
economy need not be subsidized. Israel needs food, and industries 
ttist can manufacture for export. But Israel has conquered the main 
piroUems that plague the Middle East land tenure, illiteracy, 
disease, and corrupt government. 

It seeks to provide schools for every child and medical care for 
every family. Malaria has been wiped out and other public health 
programs flourish. Workers have strong unions; and the agricul- 

"From Dan even to Beersheba" 289 

tural economy is so organized as to give every farm laborer a stake 
in his country. The standards of the public service are high. 

If Israel survives, as it will, these achievements are certain to give 
impetus and direction to revolutions that are well under way in 
other parts of Asia. Israel does not exist in a vacuum. It is an integral 
part of the Middle East. Its contagious ideas are certain to spread. 


41. A Girl and a Basket 

I HAD LEFT New Delhi for the Himalayas. I was going as far as 
Bareilly by train and then by car to Ranikhet an old British Army 
hill station located on a 6,ooo-foot ridge opposite a izo-mile stretch 
of snow-capped Himalayas. The train was slow; and it stopped 
at all the way stations. At every stop I swung open the door of 
my compartment, which, European style, was on the side of the 
train, and walked the platform. 

The platforms were packed with people Sikhs, Moslems, 
Hindus; soldiers, merchants, priests, porters, beggars, hawkers. 
Almost everyone was barefoot and dressed in loose white garments, 
I would ask not more than three people before I found one who 
spoke English. We would talk world affairs and Indian affairs- 
Korea, communism, Nehru, America, Pakistan, food, and every 
major topic the news of the day produced. In this way I was trying 
to get a feel of the pulse of the nation, checking opinion against 
official attitudes and reports. 

The route ky through one of the richest of India s agricultural 
areas. This was the plain of the upper Ganges River, a thousand 
feet above sea level but tropical. The Ganges was brown with silt, 
swollen with flood waters, its overflow inundating thousands of 
acres of rice. To the north were jungles great expanses of grass 
higher than a man s head and unbroken except for an occasional 
clump of trees the home of tigers, elephants, pythons, and cobras. 
Everywhere else there was .flat land running to the horizon as in 


2)2 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

Indiana, but dotted here and there by the sacred banyan tree or by 
rows of pakars trees shaped like elms and having thick, twisted 
trunks. Hot, humid air was moving in from the southwest. Monkeys 
some of them mothers with babies clinging to them and riding 
underneath swung off trees at the stations looking for food. The 
villages we passed had walls made of mud mixed with water and 
cow dung. Their peaked roofs were thatched bundles of grass tied 
to bamboo poles stretched across the rafters. That day the pumpkin 
vines that grew over them were in bloom, trailing streaks of yellow 
over drab walls. 

At one station my routine of talking with the natives was inter 
rupted. As soon as I alighted, a group of young children gathered 
around me. They were selling baskets hand-woven, reed baskets 
with simple designs and patterns. They held the baskets high, shout 
ing words I did not know but conveying unmistakably their desire. 

These were refugee children. When partition between India and 
Pakistan was decreed, hundreds of thousands of people pulled up 
their roots and changed their residences. Nine million people left 
Pakistan and came to India, driven by the fear of religious fanati 
cism. They were poor people to start with; they were poorer as they 
began their long trek, for all they could carry was a bit of food 
and a few belongings. Soon they were out of food. A few days 
after they started they began to fall by the wayside from the weak 
ness of hunger, and died where they fell. The highways were so 
thickly lined with bodies that the vultures could not eat them. And 
so the corpses bloated and rotted in the sun, the smell of putrid 
flesh filling the valleys. 

The children selling baskets were sons and daughters of these 

refugees. They or their parents or relatives had gathered in the 

cities, setting up stalls, manufacturing simple articles, trying to make 

a living in markets already overcrowded. They lived in cloth and 

grass lean-tos that lined the streets. The peasants among these 

refugees had been accustomed to little all their lives, for the annual 

income of an agricultural family does not on the average exceed 

one hundred dollars a year. The average unskilled laborer makes 

thirty cents a day or less than two dollars a week. There is one 

meal a day an onion, a piece of bread, a bowl of pulse (lentils) with 

milk, perhaps a bit of goat cheese. No tea, no coffee, no fats, no 

sweets, no meat. One hundred dollars a year is not two dollars a 

A Girl and a Basket 

week, yet even that small amount is hard to earn by selling baskets 
to people too poor to buy them. That no doubt is the reason these 
little children descended on me like locusts. I, an American, was 
ddubdess the most promising market they had seen. 

I bought one tiny basket for a few annas, another fruit basket 
for a bit more, a beautiful wastepaper basket for a rupee, a lovely 
sewing basket for a rupee, a few fans for an anna or two apiece,! 
My arms were filled and I had spent not fifty cents. The children 
pressed in, shouting their wares. I was a prisoner, completely sur 
rounded, unable to move. The most diligent, aggressive vendor was 
a beautiful girl of nine right in front of me. She had a lovely basket 
with a handle; and she wanted a rupee and a half for it or about 
thirty cents. She was an earnest pleader. There were tears in her 
eyes. She pleaded and begged in tones that would wring any heart. 

My arms were full. I had no room, let alone any need, for another 
basket. Balancing my baskets and fans on my left arm. I reached 
into my right coat pocket and got a handful of change perhaps 
fifteen cents in all which I deposited in the basket that the young 
girl held imploringly before me. I tried to explain that I could not 
buy the basket but extended the gratuity as a substitute. I realized 
at once what offense I had given. This child of nine, dressed in rags 
and on the edge of starvation, raised her chin, reached into the 
basket, and with all the pride and graciousness of a lady handed 
the money back to me. There was only one thing I could do. I 
bought the basket. She wiped her eyes, smiled, and dashed down 
the platform, headed for some grass hut that would have at least 
thirty cents for food that night. 

I told this story to Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharial Nehru. I 
told him it was one reason I had fallen in love with India. 

The people I saw in India those in the villages as well as those 
in high office have both pride and a lively sense of decency and 
citizenship. They also have a passion for independence. This beauti 
ful child born in squalor and poverty, uneducated in bodb grain- 
mar and manners had given me a glimpse of the warm soul of India. 

42. India and Asia 

THIS SPIRIT of trie independence is the dominant note in India s 
life today. It expresses itself in many different ways. 

The villagers, for example, have a passionate desire to own their 
own land; collectivism the religion of Communists has not the 
slightest hold in agricultural India. 

Moreover, Indians do not want their country to be the tail to 
any kite. British imperialism bled them. They still maintain that 
British capitalism first mutilated and destroyed Indian industry in 
order to give the imperial factories a monopoly. They saw the 
profits made in India under the British (sometimes three hundred 
per cent a year) exported abroad rather than used internally to 
improve living conditions, to build schools, and the like. They want 
to be independent of that kind of capitalism. 

Their passion for independence expresses itself in foreign as well 
as in domestic policies. An Indian official summarized it for me in 
an after-dinner discussion at Nehru s home: 

The world is choosing sides America or Russia. Both America 
and Russia are wooing the nations of the world. The search for 
allies goes on; there is the pressure of loans and trade agreements, 
diplomacy, the threat of the big Red Army, a Communist-con 
trolled strike, and so on. India feels these pressures. Russia is a 
neighbor on the north. Communists inveigh against Nehru and 
bomb the railways that the Indian government recently nationalized. 
Americans often criticize Nehru for playing Russia s game, for not 
aligning India with America against the forces of evil that walk the 
world today. ^ or 

But India s position, he went on to say, like that of the a>) \ent 
kingdom of Judah, is not one of neutrality in the insipid sense in 
which we use the word today. India by instinct, by tradition, by 


India and Asia 295 

religion is opposed to totalitarianism; but India does not want to 
become either a staging ground for American military defense 
against Russia or a Russian base. The teaching of Gandhi on non 
violence is a powerful force in India. That doctrine does not mean 
a passive submission to terror and aggression, but is based on the 
principle that the human spirit is more powerful than tanks and 
aircraft. It proposes nonviolence as an affirmative force. As Nehru 
put it, the doctrine of nonviolence is "an active and positive instru 
ment for the peaceful solution of international differences.* 

This is a matter of deep conviction among leaders of Indian 
thought. And it has intensely practical aspects. India has too many 
internal problems to solve problems that will take all her resources 
and all her energies to become committed to a military doctrine of 
force and armed might. She cannot afford to launch into a military 

People often ask how India s neutrality in the mounting conflict 
between East and West can be reconciled with her great friendliness 
toward and sympathy for Communist China. 

Nehru s answer to me gave insight which those who have never 
visited Ask usually lack. 

"China is at last tackling her basic economic problems. The Com 
munist government is honest. It is on the side of the common people. 
It is taking measures against the ownership of land by the few. It 
is for mass education, public health, rural reconstruction. The 
Chinese peasant at last has a champion," 

Such political projects in Asia are inspiring to Asians, whoever 
undertakes them. Asia has been under despots for untold centuries. 
Asians have been exploited beyond the imagination of most Amer 
icans, The day of liberation is a notable day in Asian annals what 
ever the political creed of the liberator. That was the spirit behind 
Nehru s leadership of the Asian Conference in 1949 that came to the 
aid of Indonesia, 

My discussion with Nehru turned to Russian aggression, its plan 
to subject the world to communism, and the place of China in die 
Russian orbit of influence. The answer was both honest and 
genuinely Asian. In Asia, China is more Asian than Russia is. 
There is an Asian consciousness that ties India, China, and all die 
other colored races of that continent close together. Russia, as well 
as England and the United States, is excluded. 

296 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

This color consciousness is a major influence in domestic and 
foreign affairs. The treatment of colored peoples by other nations is 
an important consideration in the warmth of India s relations to the 
outside world It is on the tongues of those who meet a new arrival. 
Thus the first question at my first press conference in New Delhi 
was, **Why does America tolerate the lynching of Negroes?" The 
attitude of the United States toward its colored minorities is a 
powerful factor in our relations with India. That is why a speech 
made in New Delhi on August 16, 1949 by Mrs. Edith Sampson, 
able Negro lawyer from Chicago, created such a profound im 
pression. She made it clear that while she would fight for the rights 
of her people at home, she would stand for no criticism of America 
abroad by reason of the color issue. She proudly proclaimed that 
in the last eighty years the Negro has advanced further in the 
United States "than any similar group in the entire world." That 
speech created more good will and understanding in India than any 
other single act by any American- 
One runs into this color consciousness in the villages as well as 
in the cities. The peasants of India have no conception of the 
global strategy of Russia, of the appetite of communism that would 
consume the earth. And so they saw the events in Korea in the 
summer of 1950 from a limited perspective. And what they saw 
trotibkd them. They like America; they ako feel a kinship to the 
Koreans. Their conflict of emotions was best expressed by a man 
cm the station platform at Bareilly, "Won t America please stop 
killing Koreans?" 

This Asian consciousness has many manifestations- Officials in 
Utcar Pradesh could not imagine that China would ever be the 
tail to any Russian kite. One of them at a luncheon in Bareilly said, 
**Cfoma is communistic; but her communism will be indigenous to 
China. It will reflect Ac character of her people," After a pause he 
added, **The Chinese people are the most democratic people in the 
social sense the world over. What they make of communism will 
be Teiy different from what the Russians make of it." 

Later Nehru told me, "Coiranunist China has produced a greater 
crop Gi capitalists than any previous Chinese government." 
**And what do you mean by that?" I asked. 
* 4 Thc Communists have distributed the land to the peasants. They 

India and Asia - 

are making landowners out of every Chinese farmer. And there is 
no more staunch capitalist than a landowner." 

Throughout India there is this attitude of warmth and friendli 
ness to China. Both nations have long known the morass of poverty 
and squalor that ignorance and a swelling population created and 
that an oppressive government either countenanced or promoted. 

There may turn out to be bitterness in India s cup by reason of 
her encouragement and support of Communist China. But there is a 
close affinity between the two peoples that only stern and bloody 
events can destroy. 

India s philosophy and approach to problems are mostly demo 
cratic, not totalitarian. India s constitution, adopted November 26, 
1949, provides a parliamentary system of government, with a Presi 
dent who appoints the Prime Minister, and with an independent 
judiciary. It guarantees freedom of conscience and religion, the right 
of peaceable assembly, immunity from discrimination on the grounds 
of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth, separation of church 
and state. 

India in her original Constitution also guaranteed freedom of 
speech and expression. But in 1951 she took an antilibertarian step- 
The Constitution was amended so as drastically to limit the right of 
free speech, the legislature being granted broad powers to restrict 
freedom of speech in the interest of the security of the nation, public 
order, friendly relations with foreign powers, decency or morality. 

India in its philosophy and law is tolerant of minorities. But India 
in its domestic policy has little tolerance for Communists. There 
are not many Communists in India in the northern agricultural 
areas probably not six out of a million people are Communists. There 
are more in the south and in urban centers but still not sizable 
numbers in proportion to the population. Thus the All India Trade 
Union Congress Communist-dominated since 1942 and the only 
Communist union in India in 1949 claimed about 600,000 out of 
3,000,000 organized workers in the nation. But all the 600,000 cer 
tainly were not Communists; and that membership was heavily 
drained by other unions during 1950. The Communists, however, are 
noisy and troublesome and are bent on destroying the liberal pro 
gram of Nehru and his government. They sabotage the railroads, 
causing wrecks and derailments, and they have killed hundreds in 

Strange Lands and Friendly People 

terroristic activities. High government officials know the long-range 
program of the Communists. 

The government decided it could not risk the stresses and strains 
incident to violent Communist agitation, so the Parliament early in 
1950 enacted the Preventive Detention Act, permitting among other 
things detention of a person up to one year in order to keep him 
from acting in any manner prejudicial to the defense of India, to the 
relations of India with foreign powers, to the security of India, or 
to the maintenance of public order. Many Communists have been 
jailed under this law; and the Supreme Court in the famous Gopalan 
case recently held that system of detention constitutional. 

India, in its treatment of Communists, is following the teaching of 
Gandhi engraved on the walls of the government radio station at 
New Delhi: "I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my 
house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by 
any of them." 

43. Nehru s Welfare State 

NEHRU is not India any more than Roosevelt was America. But 
each has represented in a warmhearted way the humanity of his 
country and made vocal its aspirations. 

Nehru is the spiritual heir of Gandhi. Gandhi is a saint, a holy 
man. His picture occupies the place of honor in every hall, school, 
home; his writings fill the schoolbooks; his thinking dominates the 
politics. Rajghat the place of the cremation is a sacred place. 

I visited it at sunset. At that hour each day Gandhi held a public 
prayer meeting no matter where he was, reading passages from the 
Gita, Koran, and Bible and ending in community singing, sometimes 
with his favorite Christian hymn, "When I Survey the Wondrous 
Cross." He conducted an evening prayer meeting at Rajghat 
not far from New Delhi. There in a broad expanse of lawn 
is a low concrete pyre surrounded by an iron rail Gandhi s 
samadh. Here people come by the thousands at dawn and sunset to 
pray. I took off my shoes and walked up a few steps to lay a 
wreath. On the samadh were printed Gandhi s last words "Hai 
Ram [God be praised]." They were printed in dark blue flowers, 
freshly picked by some worshiper. 

Gandhi has probably even more influence ,in India today than 
when he lived He gave India a unity of purpose. He taught tolerance 
for all minorities; to him India was a mother who had a full measure 
of affection for each member of her diverse family. But Gandhi 
taught more than that. He thought of India in terms of the common 
man the poor, the oppressed; those who lived amid squalor in mud 
huts, as well as those who lived in palaces, His mission was to raise 
these downtrodden masses, to lead them to a new life. His devotion 
to that ideal was so great that he even adopted their way of life 


300 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

and their manner of dress so that none in the whole land might 
feel lowly or inferior. 

Nehru s inheritance of the Gandhi tradition is genuine. His aim 
is to make India s 400,000,000 people equal partners in all the 
dividends of freedom, to give to India a broad democratic base 
by raising the standards of the masses. 

Nehru is an inspiring leader. When he travels people flock by 
the thousands to see his train; and they crowd around him in public 
places trying to touch his garments. This is genuine affection to 
which Nehru is sensitive. He makes incessant tours of the country, 
talking, talking, talking. He knows and loves his people; and they 
know and love him. Nehru educated at Oxford and western in 
many attitudes gives his people the feeling that he belongs to them 
and that his government is theirs. There is sincerity in this attitude. 
Nehru is no demagogue; he speaks from the heart. What he seeks 
to represent is the finest in Indian traditions. He tries to make his 
people think noble thoughts even amid their squalor and poverty. 
He sets high aims for them ideals that challenge the best that is 
in them. His words of sympathy to the victims of the recent awe 
some floods in Kashmir are typical: "It is no good allowing ourselves 
to be overwhelmed by any catastrophe however big. Perhaps all 
this provides a testing ground for a people and ultimately strengthens 

A more silent partner in these endeavors is Dr. Rajendra Prasad, 
first President of the Republic. His quiet dignity carries tremendous 
prestige in India. Prasad, like Nehru, spent many years in jail 
during the resistance to the British. Thirty years ago he gave up a 
lucrative law practice to join Gandhi. He is a solid pillar of strength 
honest, humanitarian, liberal, and steadfast a symbol of the long- 
suffering, enduring qualities of the Indian peasant. The people seem 
to realize it; for Prasad commands their respect and loyalty. 

In recent years the third main character on the Indian political 
stage was the late Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Minister of State and 
Home Affairs. Nehru devoted himself primarily to foreign affairs, 
Patel to domestic matters. He, like Nehru, was an able campaigner, 
but he did not have the broad base of popular support that Nehru 
enjoys. Nehru is philosophically a Socialist. The leaning of the in 
tellectual group who today determines India s policy is in that 
direction. But Patel leaned toward the philosophy of private enter- 

Nehru s Welfare State 301 

prise; he was the main, political counterweight to socialism in India. 

Political leadership in India poses different questions than in 
America. In Travancore 75 per cent of the people are literate. 
That is the exception. In the rest of India only 5 per cent can 
read and write. There is no tradition of the party system; in the 
two hundred years of British rule there was no universal exercise 
of the franchise. Thus Indians have had no political experience in 
the democratic way of life. Democratic standards, however, are 
written in the new constitution. Every person, male or female, 21 
years of age or over, can vote. Nehru and the entire Indian adminis 
trative service educated in British ways of thought are committed 
to these standards. But Nehru, to make the democratic system work, 
has made compromises. He did not think that India was ready for 
the two-party system. All parties were brought together under the 
Congress party. This alliance of parties was welded in the fight 
against the British for independence. It has largely survived in the 
four years since independence was achieved. The Communists a 
negligible group are not included. 

In 1948 the Socialists seceded. They have a small but vigorous 
party perhaps the most effective, single one in India. It is under 
the leadership of Jaiprakash Narayan, once a Communist but now 
a Gandhian who has democratic principles. He has a strong hold on 
labor and he is insistent about the abolition of landlordism. He broke 
with the Congress party to provide democratic opposition to the 
weight of its conservative elements. 

The Congress party under Nehru s leadership has forged a politi 
cal program for India that is more challenging than any I saw 
from Beirut to Bangkok. Both New Delhi the nation s capital 
and the capitals of the provinces (the states of the federa 
tion) are humming with it. There is great ferment in the country. 
Every problem is being attacked; new ideas are pouring out; short- 
range, long-range programs are being devised; the capitate are 
bristling with energy. There is nothing orthodox or dogmatic about 
the approach. It is as unorthodox and as dynamic as Roosevelt s 
first term. This is a crusade and everyone is in it. 

The burden of it is being carried by the Indian Administrative 
Service the real legacy which England left behind. This service 
was the "steel structure" of the government even when the British 
were there. It was the main support for the operation of the British 

$02 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

government. When independence was declared on August 15, 1947, 
and India became a sovereign state, tremendous responsibilities fell 
upon this Service. It was drawn upon to staff the Indian delega 
tion to the United Nations and every Indian embassy and legation 
around the globe. That was a heavy drain. Enough experts had to 
be left to run the internal affairs of the country. These men and 
women rose to the occasion. The Service doubtless has deteriorated 
to a degree, but that is a concern of government and is being given 
attention. Certainly at the top Nehru s government compares favor 
ably with what I have known either here or abroad. 

First among the many acute problems of India is -food. 

The pressure of India s population on the land is increasing. There 
are about 400,000,000 people who are increasing by 3,500,000 a year. 
It is not uncommon to find 1,000 people living on one square mile 
of land. Every square foot is cultivated. The search for additional 
acreage has led to the destruction of most of India s forests as new 
land was opened to the plow. With the loss of the trees, the climate 
often changed. Hot winds now blow in from the southwest and 
burn crops. With the destruction of the trees there have been even 
more tragic losses. Now there is no fuel. The price of kerosene 
is too high for the peasants. So they burn cow dung which should be 
used as a fertilizer. Thus for years the land has become poorer and 

There are 257,000,000 cattle in India. Among these are dairy herds 
that compare favorably with the best; but most of them are thin 
and scrawny, their ribs plainly visible. Since the land can support 
only 60 per cent of the 257,000,000 cattle, there is not enough food 
to go around; consequently the cows give on the average only a 
quart of milk a day. Cows are sacred in Hindu religion. They may 
not be killed; the meat may not be eaten. And so hungry cattle get 
a bare subsistence on fodder that should go to humans. When I 
was in Uttar Pradesh a riot broke out in a village because of a 
rumor that someone had killed a cow. About the same time the 
government s project to reduce the herds was brought to a halt. A 
leading politician made a denunciatory speech. "They say that eco 
nomic ruin will come to India unless our herds of cattle are reduced. 
I say, let s have economic ruin rather than a sacrifice of our religious 

To increase food production, modern methods of agriculture 

Nehru s Welfare State 

are needed. But many of the holdings of peasants are pulverized 
and scattered, e.g., the two acres a man owns may be divided into 
several tiny units and widely separated. The introduction of modern 
farm machinery is impossible under those circumstances. 

The greatest ravager of soil and food is the flood. Most areas 
of India have plenty of rain one, over four hundred inches a year. 
But the rain is seasonal, coming mostly in the monsoon period and 
running off quickly. The run-offs carry soil and crops with them; 
then a people who already are near a subsistence level drop to star 
vation rations. As President Prasad told me, the most important single 
measure for increasing the food supply is "to train the rivers." Flood 
control and irrigation projects rank high in priority next to care 
for the nine million refugees from Pakistan. 

Here are a few of the important steps which Nehru s govern 
ment has taken on the food problem: 

1. Food is rationed from surplus areas to deficit areas. About 
130 districts (over 112,000,000 people) are on the ration list, re 
ceiving regular quotas of basic foods. This includes all the urban 

2. Many surplus cows are being sequestered in state forests, kept 
segregated from bulls, and allowed to live their natural span. (Cows, 
by the way, like the leaves of India s oak trees.) 

3. Fuel forests are being planted near villages in sufficient size 
and numbers to supply wood for cooking and heating. The fast- 
growing acacia which will produce fuel in ten years is widely 
used. As these forests become available, cow dung will be saved 
for fertilizing India s old and tired land. 

4. India is tackling the tree problem. Each August there is a week 
devoted to a tree-planting festival Van Mahotsva. During this 
week schools, villages, and other organizations are encouraged to 
plant trees, which can be bought for a few annas from govern 
ment nurseries. In August, 1950, twenty million trees were planted 
by individuals. For the first time in centuries Indians are becoming 
"tree conscious." 

5. There has been an encouragement of co-operatives and a great 
development in their use. The problem of small, scattered farm hold 
ings is being solved in some pkces by a pooling of all village land, 
which is then managed by co-operative methods. Each farmer s 
share of the crop is measured by his proportion of land cultivated. 

Strange Lands and Friendly People 
Some farm machinery is being introduced, but this must proceec 
slowly, since spare parts and trained mechanics are needed for it 
repair I saw 500 tractors in Uttar Pradesh, 175 of winch had beei 
immobilized for weeks for lack of parts and mechanics. 

6. Ancient jungle lands are being opened up with tractors am 
bulldozers. Thousands of farmers-mostly refugees from Pakistan- 
are being settled on them. Many more new lands can become avaiJ 
able when irrigation projects are completed. 

7 Great flood-control and irrigation dams, with substantial hydrc 
electric power, are being built. Many had been built by th 
British, including one hundred dams over one hundred feet higl 
Larger one*-inspired by TVA and f ollowing its pattern are unde 
way. Four were to be in operation within a year Bhakra, Damoda 
Hirakud, and Tungabhadra. Nine others of smaller proportions ai 
under way. Tremendous ones are in blueprint. There is, for exampl 
the Kosi in northeast India which will overshadow our own Gran 


The health problem in India is staggering. Life expectancy : 
birth is about twenty-seven years (as compared to over sixty jea 
in the United States). There are no accurate statistics of infai 
mortality; but it is estimated that close to 75 per cent die befoj 
they reach the age of one year. The mortality of women durir 
pregnancy and birth is twenty-three times that in this countr 
There is one doctor to every 6,300 persons; one nurse to evei 
43,000; one midwife to every 60,000. The doctors are mostly in tl 
cities. The great population of India perhaps 90 per cent is in tl 
500,000 villages; and these are substantially without medical ca 
except for midwives. The doctors are mostly local herb doctors- 
not trained in western diagnosis. The midwives are largely untraine 
sanitary conditions are lacking. 

The health program of India based on the Bhore report 
194615 under way. It is under the auspices of a learned, dynan 
woman (a Christian), another disciple of Gandhi Rajkumari Am 
Kaur. It has manifold phases malaria control, vaccination, incre: 
ing the supply of doctors and nurses, midwife clinics, first-s 
clinics, education in preventive medicine, protection of water su 
plies, and so on. It is a long-range program, but it is being manag 
with a missionary zeal though like most of India s projects, 
is being slowed by lack of money* 

Nehru s Welfare State 505 

Public health programs are certain to cause the population curve 
to shoot skyward just as it did in Puerto Rico, where the rate of 
natural increase jumped from 15.2 in 1910 to 24.9 in 1945. 

How can a land already hard-pressed for food support more 

Nehru is convinced that India is in truth underpopulated. 

The answer to the population problem is in part the develop 
ment of new land and the better utilization of the old. The irriga 
tion and flood-control projects will greatly help. But that will be 
only a partial answer. Industrialization is necessary for the standard 
of living under which India s new freedom will flourish. 

India has vast natural resources. There is a tremendous hydro 
electric power potential in the country of which only i y 2 per cent 
has been harnessed. India s developed hydroelectric generating ca 
pacity is 615,000 kilowatts as compared with our 17,700,000 kilo 
watts. India s undeveloped hydroelectric generating capacity exceeds 
m million kilowatts, of which 40 million seems economically 
feasible. One has only to see the Himalayas to realize that the power 
they hold surpasses anything we know in America. The dams which 
to date have been constructed harness only a fraction of it. There 
is some oil in India, and its iron ore is richer perhaps than any of 
our deposits. There is a seemingly unlimited coal supply. And there 
are manganese, titanium, and numerous other metals. There is a 
steel plant in operation with a 9oo,ooo-ton capacity. But it is quite 

One of Nehru s points of emphasis is scientific research. Scien 
tific inquiry and the use of technology to unlock the secrets of the 
universe and put them to work for the people are indeed almost a 
religion with him. He sees science as a revolutionary force, as the 
instrument of change, as the handmaiden of political freedom and 
independence. While the struggle for independence went on, the 
political leaders treated science as Western, as alien, as an agency of 
imperialism. That was Gandhi s view. But during this same twenty- 
five year period Indian scientists were running a parallel course 
they wanted freedom and opportunity to develop science in India; 
they were striving to put modern technology to work on India s 

In Nehru those two forces have merged the man of science and 
the political leader. Nehru s right-hand man and executive in this 

306 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

venture is Dr. S. S. Bhatnagar, a distinguished chemical scientist. 
He is now promoter and manager of vast research centers. There 
will be eleven national scientific laboratories established in India 
by 1952. Those research centers perform the functions of our 
Regional Research Laboratories, Bureau of Standards and the Mellon 
Institute. They include all fields of science physics, chemistry, 
fuel, glass and ceramics, and the like. The emphasis of Hindu 
philosophy has been on the search for truth. The mystics and the 
scientists now have a new partnership. There are opponents of this 
new trend; but they are in the minority. The tide of science rolls 
over India. 

Capital for new enterprises has been hard to get. Historically 
capital in India reaped a rich harvest; a 25 per cent or 30 per 
cent return on investment was not unusual. But with the advent of 
India s independence capital has been scarce. American business has 
scouted several projects and turned each down. Much of the local 
Indian capital is in hiding. Fortunes were made in the black market 
during the last days of the British. That money, being a refugee 
from taxes, is timid and reluctant to appear. 

There is criticism of the Indian government both by Indian and 
American capital The socialist program of the government specif 
ically its nationalization of the railroads and its announcement that 
certain other basic industries such as steel would eventually be 
nationalized is blamed. But the problem is not so simple as that. 
India is willing to make an ad hoc arrangement with any investment 
group, agreeing to provide foreign exchange for the conversion 
of profits into dollars and guaranteeing immunity from nationaliza 
tion^ for, say thirty years. India wants some participation with 
foreign capital; it wants to share in the profits of these new and vast 
undertakings, though it is content with a minority position. But 
foreign private capital is shy and timid. It may be necessary for 
foreign governmental capital to do service for private capital. Certain 
it is that new capital is basic and essential to India s emancipa 
tion from poverty and squalor and to the full realization of her 
new independence. 

Land ownership has been a scourge to India for centuries. Ma- 
harajahs owned many square miles and leased land to the peasants 
who, as in the Middle East, were no more than serfs. They paid as 
high as 75 per cent of the crop for rent. Rabindranath Tagore 

Nehru s Welfare State 307 

once described them as "eternal tenants in an extortionate world 
having nothing of their own." 

This feudal system was not universal in India, but it was sufficiently- 
prevalent to cast a plague across the land. The rich got richer, and 
the poor got poorer. There was no sound base on which a demo 
cratic society could be built. Talk of social justice to people who 
have a bare subsistence and no avenue of escape from their squalor 
is no more than words lost in the mounting fury of a storm. The 
feudal land system is, indeed, the main leverage of Communist 
propaganda in the whole reach of country from the Mediterranean 
to the Pacific. 

This advantage was sought to be taken from the Communists in 
India, where the Congress party made the distribution of land to the 
peasants one of its main tenets. The execution of that program rests 
largely with the provinces or states, and is now in various stages. 
Some states Bengal for one have not yet launched it. They give 
as an excuse in Calcutta the influx of four million refugees from East 
Pakistan that drained the resources of the province and temporarily 
postponed any land distribution. It is farthest along in Uttar Pradesh. 
There the landlord is left with his land provided he cultivates it 
directly, not through tenants. The rest goes to the tenants. They 
pay the government the value of the land, as determined by the 
government, over a period of years. The government pays the land 
lord over a term. Future acquisitions of land are limited so that 
hereafter no person may acquire more than fifty acres. 

Some Indian courts have enjoined the land distribution programs 
on the ground that the payments to the landowners were insufficient 
by constitutional standards. It took a constitutional amendment in 
1951 to rid the program of that obstacle. 

I talked with landlords who were convinced that evil times have 
come to India; that the curse of a Socialist philosophy has blighted 
the nation. But this land program has had an electrifying effect in 
the villages. At the outset it did more than any other single thing to 
weld the masses to Nehru s leadership. 

How secure that leadership will be depends in large measure on 
the speed with which the land-distribution program is carried out. 
In that connection the Communists are causing considerable political 
trouble. The Communists took more direct action than the Congress 
party. Though small in number they are well organized; and they 

Strange Lands and Friendly People 

move with unity and vigor. India s independence had hardly been 
proclaimed in 1947 when they undertook land reform in Hyderabad, 
a province of seventeen million people in south central India. Per 
haps Hyderabad was chosen because it represented the worst in the 
vicious tenancy system in all of India. In hundreds of villages the 
Communists aroused the peasants, armed them, drove out the land 
lords and the feudal lords 5 representatives, and distributed the land 
to the peasants. The central government moved in and restored 
order. But the idea of land reform which the Communists dramat 
ically put into practice has become a powerful revolutionary force 
that will harass any recalcitrant government. The Socialist party 
these days is clamoring for speedier action. 

Another generating force that is beginning to appear in some of 
the villages of India is the panchayat, a form of local government, 
ancient in Indian history but not used for some centuries. Nehru s 
government has revived it. It has a special place in the new constitu 
tion. A group of villages depending on their size elect a council 
and a court to handle their local affairs. This is the town hall come 
to India, democracy at the village level. It has to date been used 
only in Uttar Pradesh, but its operation there has met the highest 
expectations of its sponsors. India is being returned to the Indians. 
People in the faraway hill country are getting a new sense of 
citizenship, of belonging to a dynamic movement. As one villager 
said to me with pride, "Now we can have our own school." 

Still another force working toward a feeling of equality in Indian 
society and a sense of joint adventure is the abolition of the caste 
system. The constitution outlaws it. Discrimination against "an Un 
touchable" carries a heavy penalty. 

Dr. B. A. Ambedkar, brilliant Minister of Law in the central 
government, is an "Untouchable." He married a Brahmin and is in 
all of India a shining example of Gandhi s preachings that all caste 
distinctions must be abolished. 

The intellectual group in India accepts this law in its full spirit. 
The government is behind it wholeheartedly. But that does not 
mean that the caste system is abolished. Like racial discrimination 
in this country, it has deep roots. It still prevails in the villages, 
though even there it is beginning to break. In one small town I was 
talking with a young high school student, bright-eyed and alert, 
on his way home from school with an English book containing 

Nehru s Wei-fare State 309 

Gandhi s writings under his arm. I pointed to a man on the street 
(who I later learned was an Untouchable) and asked the boy, "Is 
that man an Untouchable?" 

The boy turned to me, wide-eyed at my inquiry, and said in full 
sincerity, "There is no such person in all of India anymore." 

Thus are Gandhi s teachings and India s law beginning to take 
hold even in the back country. 

These are the main foundations of Nehru s program. It has other 
and manifold aspects adequate schools in each of the 500,000 
villages; ambitious plans for vocational and professional education; 
public works; and many other social programs which in India are 
known in the aggregate as the blueprint for a "welfare state." Some 
parts of the program are well advanced, others have just started. 
Some will be shortly realized; others will take perhaps generations 
to realize. But the program in its totality is real, alive, and dynamic. 
It has captured the enthusiasm of the masses. 

This does not mean that its success is assured. It has its opponents. 
Some thought that when Purshottamdas Tandon was recently 
elected president of the Congress party the tide against Nehru s 
policies had turned. But the Nasik meeting of the Congress in 
September, 1950, endorsed all of Nehru s policies. There is no com 
plete agreement in the party on how the program will be imple 
mented, and it is possible that elements in the party may succeed 
in mutilating parts of it. But as long as the philosophy of men such 
as Nehru, Prasad, and the rising young Socialists dominate Indian 
politics this program will in the main move forward. 

The political alternative to Nehru and the Socialists in India is not 
communism. It is the reactionary, right-wing party, the Mahasabah, 
which has as its goal the establishment of a Hindu state. Reaction 
aries in India, as in other parts of southeast Asia, may produce, com 
munism. The masses in that part of the world have decided to throw 
off the yoke of permanent poverty. Gandhi and Nehru have shown 
them how to do it in the democratic way. If Nehru s welfare state 
lives, communism will gain no political victory in India. 

44. Jai Hind 

I WAS IN Almora during the festival of Nanda Devi. This town is 
located on a ridge facing snowy sentinels of the Himalayas that 
mount higher in the sky than any peak on the North American 
continent. Legend has it that the town was founded there because 
at that point a king who was chasing a rabbit saw the rabbit turn 
into a tiger. His seers said that was a good omen; hence the selection 
of the spot for a village. But the view which the town commands of 
the Himalayas the Snows as the natives call them is reason enough 
for the choice. The Snows dominate the scene; and while I was there 
they dominated my thinking. They seem to belong to another 
firmament a world where gay colors streak as far as the eye can 
see across glacial ice and then fickly change. 

Indians have for centuries associated the Snows with the other 
world. They are indeed a place of magic and mystery, wrapped 
in the mists of superstition and legend. Throughout the ages 
men on distant ridges or in deep valleys have looked heaven 
ward to the Himalayas in worship. In those high peaks they have 
found comfort and inspiration. The reverence in which the Snows 
have been held was summed up by an ancient sage of India, "As 
the dew is dried up by the morning sun, so are the sins of mankind 
by the sight of the Himachal." 

India s most sacred rivers the Ganges and the Jumna rise in 
the Himalayas. The Snows are also the home of many spirits. One 
of the highest peaks (25,660 feet) is named for Nanda Devi, a god 
dess. She is a Blessed Goddess. Her high and remote sanctuary is 
said to bring a lasting peace, though few have ever reached the top. 

Nanda Devi is a goddess of many moods. At Naini Tal, where 
there is a crater lake nestling under high peaks, she exacts an annual 
toll. Legend says that someone must drown there each year to 


Jai Hind 

appease the goddess. The more superstitious are reluctant to go 
near the water until a drowning has taken place. In fact, one man 
recently was urged by a native not to go to the rescue of his wife 
who was attempting suicide, since rescue would offend the goddess. 
When I was there many boats were on the lake, for a swimmer had 
drowned that spring. 

In Naini Tal the Nanda Devi festival starts with the sacrifice of 
a buffalo. The town has an executioner who usually is able to sever 
the head with one swift stroke. If he fails, the goddess is offended 
and another buffalo must be sacrificed. And so it goes until one stroke 
accomplishes the beheading. When I was in Naini Tal, the Nanda 
Devi festival was just starting. The executioner was sick; a less 
competent man had to take his place. And so the villagers were 
searching for a buffalo with a skinny neck a one-stroke animal 
for a second-rate executioner. 

Everywhere a sacrifice is made to the goddess during this annual 
festival. In Almora a sheep had been killed. Apart from the sacrifice, 
there was a service in the temple followed by a procession in which 
a symbolic representation of the goddess was carried. But apart 
from these rituals the festival was gay. There was a carnival that 
moved from village to village a carnival with a ferris wheel and 
side shows. 

The day I was in Almora there was dancing in the streets. Men 
and boys with flutes and bagpipes gathered crowds in the courtyard 
of the temple and on street corners, where they played wild, exotic 
tunes. Everyone was happy. Thousands filled the town; they were 
packed in the streets and the bazaars; they sat on roofs in bright- 
colored clothes waiting for the procession. It was a joyful, milling 
crowd out on a holiday, such as we find in our county fairs. It, 
indeed, looked like a county fair. There was an excellent display of 
local products. Government experimental stations had exhibits, show 
ing new fruits and vegetables. Boshi Sen a noted Indian scientist 
who is searching out the secrets of protoplasm had hybrid corn 
and new types of potatoes (which would challenge both Idaho and 
Maine) on display. Vocational schools showed woodwork, needle 
work, weaving; villagers brought in beautiful hand-woven shawls 
and cloth. A young Indian veterinarian had a stall showing the 
scientific way to prevent and treat the dread liver fluke among 

5 12 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

All the work of the district and the skills and inventive genius 
of the people were on display. There was pride in this offering to 
the goddess; and everyone reveled in it. It was an enthusiastic com 
munity outpouring. It was as if the crowd were saying, "Look 
what we have done." It was somehow the spirit of a new India 
the tireless energy of millions dedicated to a challenging and Vast 
undertaking. Ancient hand skills, new technology, and modern 
science were combined to make public an interesting progress re 
port. And yet it was all done under the auspices of Nanda Devi, a 
goddess born of myth and integrated into the Hindu religious 
system of thought. 

When my party returned to Boshi Sen s cottage for luncheon 
the conversation turned to this combination of science and mysticism 
and the place of religion in the life of the Hindu. 

We started with the problem of food; and someone suggested 
that if America underwrote India s deficiency in food for a few 
years it would be the greatest contribution that could be made to 
the problems of southeast Asia. We went from the subject of food 
to the curing of the sick. Then we discussed the importance of 
education education that would enable people to grow more food, 
to prevent illness, to face their problems with insight as well as 
with courage. 

Boshi Sen interrupted to say that these were all worthy aims. 
Feeding the hungry is the least enduring, he said. Curing the sick 
is more enduring. Education is more desirable than the othejr two. 
And then he added, "But the most enduring gift of all is spiritual. 
It is to help one realize God. That is the highest gift, the gift of 
eternal duration." 

Hinduism is not a fanatic faith; it has a charity that is compre 
hensive. It acknowledges the validity of the gods of the most super 
stitious as well as the highest conception of the unity of God. It 
teaches that God s scheme embraces the whole human race. An 
Indian song expresses this religious tolerance: 

Into the bosom of one great sea 

Flow streams that come from hills on every side, 

Their names are various as their springs, 

And thus in every land do men bow down 

To one great God, though known by many names. 

Jdi Hind 

But Hinduism requires of each man s God requisites of the 
Supreme Being. 

Hinduism sees in each man a divine potential. It is the role of 
great souls to awaken in common folks this spark of divinity. "They 
who worship Me with devotion are in Me, and so am I in them," 
says the Bhagavad Gita. By devotion, discipline, and rectitude in 
conduct man can himself become like God. It is the spirit, not bread 
alone, that sustains man. The fulfillment of the spirit is the aim of 
life. Spiritual realization is self-emancipation, freedom; perfection 
of every type of activity is an expression of divinity. "Whatsoever 
is glorious, good, beautiful and mighty, understand that it goes forth 
from out of a fragment of my splendour." 

We talked of these things with Boshi Sen and his wife Gertrude 
Emerson Sen. 

There was a long silence broken only by the pitapat of goats 
feet below the garden wall goats driven by a scraggy Tibetan. 
Then Boshi Sen spoke up and said with deep emotion, "There is no 
power on earth that can destroy India. At no time in history has 
India been without her great spiritual giants; it is from them that 
she derives her enduring strength." 

Later I drove down from the hill country to the Ganges plain 
in an open car. It was early morning. The Snows disappeared behind 
an intervening ridge. The excellent asphalt road built by the 
British twisted corkscrew fashion down ravines whose slopes were 
covered with oak, deodars, and a long-leaf pine called the chir. 
Below us the Kosi River poured like a cataract through deep gorges. 
We were nearing a village. As we made a sharp horseshoe turn 
we came upon a group of school boys ten to twelve years old 
with books under their arms. They were dressed like ragamuffins 
barefooted, torn and patched trousers, coarse shirts. As the car 
passed they shouted at the top of their lungs, "Jai Hind [Glory 
to India]." 

Gandhi s teachings, Nehru s example, the spiritual strength that 
Boshi Sen spoke of had somehow reached down to the boys of a 
remote Indian village. In the fleeting second of my contact with 
them I felt the spirit that is carrying India through valleys of poverty,, 
squalor, and suffering to her tryst with destiny. 

In Summary 

ONE WHO loses himself in the villages of Ask for weeks on end 
returns to America profoundly disturbed. The America he loves is 
not the America the people of Ask see. The attitudes we express, 
the words we use, the policies we pursue too often injure rather 
than help the cause of freedom-loving people. The reason is that 
we live in one world, the people of Ask in a different world. They 
do not understand us nor we them. To most Americans Asia is a 
continent of strange lands and strange people. The attitudes and 
viewpoints of Arabs, Persians, and Indians often puzzle us. They 
react in ways that frequently fill us with doubt and alarm. At times 
they seem to be mere instruments of Russian policy, venting their 
spleen on us. They seem remote and aloof, even unwilling to under 
stand us. Our doubts and suspicions grow until we wonder if they 
are not in truth aligned with Russk for our ultimate destruction. 
Being filled with confusion we lose our power and strength. As 
the Bhagavad Gita says, "Confusion is not the nature of a kader." 

The world is different than we in America have thought. Ask 
is in revolution. There are rumblings in eveiy village from the 
Mediterranean to the Pacific. A force is gathering for a raigiity 
effort. We think of that force as communistic, COUHBUIM^S exploit 
the situation, stirring every discontent and making the po boil The 
revolutions which are brewing are not, however* CemBnatst in 
origin nor will they end even if Soviet Russia is crushed tfaraigh 
war. The revolutionaries are hungry men *wbo im& been ea^Jtftlaf 
f rom time out of ?mnd. This is the century of their mmkenmg md 

What I saw and heard as I traveled this vast territory that Bes 


Strange Lands and Friendly People 

under the southern rim of Russia reminded me very much of what 
I had read about other revolutions. The spirit that motivates these 
people is pretty much the same as the spirit that inspired the French 
and the American Revolutions. The abuses against which our Amer 
ican forebears protested in 1776 were piled high. They are listed 
in our Declaration of Independence: dissolution of legislative bodies 
by the King; corruption of judges; maintenance of a standing 
army and quartering of troops among the people; imposition of 
taxes without the consent of the colonies; transporting citizens be 
yond the seas for trial of offenses committed here. These and other 
practices of the King brought our people to a boiling point; and 
we declared ourselves free. 

The complaints of the peasants of Asia are just as specific as 
those in our own Declaration of Independence; and to them they 
are just as important. The absence of medical care always comes 
first. The absence of schools is always second. Then comes land 
reform. These people have a passion for land ownership that 
we Americans can understand. We expressed it in our homestead 
laws and in the great westward movement that built a nation out 
of the wilderness. Next comes the desire to learn how to farm the 
modern way. The right to vote, the right to elect a representative 
government, the power to expel and punish corrupt officials 
these too are important claims. Finally, the people of this area have 
a new sense of nationalism. It reflects itself in many ways the 
growing tendency in underdeveloped and exploited countries to 
nationalize their natural resources and keep the profits for them 
selves; the desire to have local capital a partner with foreign capital 
in developing the nation; an exultant feeling of independence and 
resentment against intermeddling by outside powers. Perhaps the 
best example is Persia. 

For centuries Asia has been under the domination of the foreigner. 
The Arab world has been dominated by the Turks for the last four 
hundred years; Persia by the Russians and British for the last one 
hundred fifty; India by the British for three hundred years; the 
Philippines by Spaniards and by Americans; Indonesia by the Dutch; 
China by the Boxer powers; and so on. Those were mostly forms 
of imperialism that exploited the nations and left nothing for the 
peasants. That day is over and done with. Asia is united in one 
cause to be rid of the foreigners domination. In southeast Asia 

In Summary 5/7 

that unity receives powerful impetus from a race and color con 
sciousness that is a dominant and often overriding factor in basic 
policy issues. 

There are professional agitators who stir this brew of discontent; 
but the rebellious drive comes from the masses. I have not seen a 
village between the Mediterranean and the Pacific that was not 
stirring uneasily. 

The faces of these people and their words keep coming back to 
me. Some of their words sting. 

A peasant of India pointing to dead bodies of those who had died 
of starvation and asking me, "Is America the good nation we were 
told when it destroys its surplus potatoes and lets people die?" 

The peasant at a thrashing floor in Bashan, south of Damascus, 
shaking a pitchfork as he asked me, "Why should a few men own 
all the land and make us work for nothing?" 

The searching eyes and the imploring voice of an Iraqi villager 
near Basra who said, "I would be glad to live like a dog if only there 
was hope for my children." 

A peasant in a dusty village in Persia on the road between Tehran 
and Tabriz presented the complaints of his people with the vigor of 
a Thomas Paine, "When Russian influence was strong in Persia and 
the Tudeh party flourished, our rent dropped to one-third of the 
crop. Now American influence runs Persia and our rents are up to 
50 per cent and more." 

American foreign policy has never been addressed to the condi 
tions under which these revolutions flourish. Democracy, peace, 
aggression are important words to us; but to those in the hinterland 
they are apt to be hollow and meaningless. America s voice when 
heard in this poverty and disease-ridden belt often sounds coarse 
and cheap not because we intend it but because we do not know 
the world in which we live. 

We tell about our high standard of living, how well our workers 
eat, the fine houses they live in. And it sounds like boasting and 

We finance agrarian projects for the benefit of the landlords 
instead of requiring, as we do in our domestic projects, that the 
beneficiaries be the men who work the land. 

We send technical experts abroad to help in seed selection, 
soil conservation, malaria control and the like. But we never raise 

318 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

our voice for reform of the vicious tenancy system of Asia under 
which increased production inures to the benefit of a few. We seem 
to forget that health programs unrelated to land distribution proj 
ects, minimum wages, maximum hours of work and the like merely 
increase the number of people among whom the existing poverty 
must be rationed. 

We talk about democracy and justice; and at the same time we 
support regimes merely because they are anti-Communist regimes 
whose object is to keep democracy and justice out of reach of the 
peasants for all time, so as to protect their own vested interests. 

We put billions of dollars behind corrupt and reactionary govern 
ments which exempt the rich from income taxes and fasten the hold 
of an oligarchy tighter and tighter on the nation. At the same 
time we fail to support to the hilt men who back reforms that would 
stem the tide of communism. 

The matter was best summed up by Musa Bey Alami of Jericho. 
He came up to Jerusalem to see me; and a small group of us sat 
under a pepper tree in an ancient and lovely garden talking about 
this problem. Across the Valley of Judgment to the east was the 
Mount of Olives crowned with dark-green conifers and somber in 

the afternoon sun. Below was Gethsemane where giant olive trees 

perhaps the very ones that sheltered Christ in His sorrow spread 
their light-green leaves. Across from it were the walls of Jerusalem 
and the Golden Gate sealed tight against the Day of Judgment. A 
breeze swept across the mountains of Judea and touched the Old 
City with a cool breath. Talk turned to the Western powers. The 
group expressed the view that the United States, Great Britain, 
and France were f oUowing policies that were certain to be destruc 
tive of democratic standards and would lead to the seizure of con 
trol over the area by the Communists. Musa Bey Alami spoke with 
intensity of feeling. His words tumbled in a torrent as if they had 
been pent up too long: 

"America talks about individual freedom and preaches it to the 
Arab people. That is idle talk, for we Arabs well know that in the 
countries of the Middle East the rights of free press, freedom of 
assembly, and other individual rights exist to no greater extent than 
they do in the Soviet satellites of Europe. Those rights are denied 
to aJl in the Middle East except supporters of the regimes in power. 
And yet the Western powers support and control these regimes." 

In Summary 3/5? 

These Arabs discussed how it was that no government in the 
Middle East would long endure if the weight of the Western powers 
was against it. Neither these governments nor the people want 
to join the Soviet axis; it is to the West that they look for leader 
ship and guidance; it is with the West that they want to keep their 
partnerships in oil, in irrigation, and in industry. The West therefore 
has leverage which it should use. 

Musa Bey Alami made a special plea, "Please tell the people of 
America not to lecture us about democracy. Don t tell our people 
that they must choose between democracy and communism. The 
people of this region are not free to make the choice. They are 
slaves. They are illiterate. They have no present escape from their 
misery. There is for them no such thing as liberty." 

A young Arab turned to Musa Bey Alami and said: "Say what 
we think America should do." 

"America should help us get rid in a peaceful way of the feudal 
system that holds us in its grip. America should throw its weight 
on the side of the honest, liberal elements which can be found 
in every country. If, for example, America had done that in China 
if America had demanded a real liberal program as a condition 
of financial help China would not be Communist today." 

"Would not that be intervention?" someone asked. 

"Call it intervention if you like," said Musa Bey AlamL "But 
when American influence is used to prop up or to strengthen a 
corrupt or reactionary political regime, that is also intervention." 

I learned on my journeys that what Musa Bey Alami said ex 
pressed the views of the young, liberal, idealistic leaders who are 
to be found in every country across this vast stretch of land. 

There are liberal forces in practically all of the Asian countries. 
At times they are either in a minority position in the cabinet or 
outside the government completely. But each of these nations has 
men who have the dream of a new freedom for their people, who 
have the character and ability to rid the nation of the feudal system 
that is as old as Asia. In other words, there is both the leadership 
and the energy within these countries to accomplish the necessary 
programs of social reconstruction. Yet to date our weight has been 
with the opposing forces. 

Our great weakness has been our negative attitude. We have 
been anti-Communist. We have been pledged to root it out and 

320 Str&nge Lmds and Friendly People 

expose it for all its ugliness. We have taken up the hunt inside our 
country for every human being who was, is, or may be a Com 
munist. Yet no matter how feverish our efforts* the red tide of 
communism seems to spread abroad. We are seized with panic as the 
waters Jap at feeble dikes. So we rush to the support of every group 
that opposes Soviet communism. That puts us in partnership with 
the corrupt and reactionary groups whose policies breed the dis 
content on which Soviet communism feeds and prospers. 

The second basic reason for our default is that we have relied 
more and more on our military to do our thinking and planning for 
us. Beginning in 1945 with the fall of Japan and continuing until 
the removal of General Douglas MacArthur by President Truman 
on April 10, 1951, we entrusted the management of our policy 
toward Asia largely to the Army. The military, rather than the 
diplomats, in fact made policy for us. It is no reflection on the 
military to deplore that fact. The situation in Asia is delicate and 
complex. It requires astute handling at the political level the best 
that we can muster in skill and understanding. As a consequence 
of our negative attitude and military approach to problems, the tide 
of Soviet communism has picked up momentum. 

Our third grave mistake has been our subservience to*British 
policy in the Middle East. Britain has long treated Persia, as it has 
other countries in this area, as a colony. We have largely back- 
stopped the British throughout this region. The British oil concession 
in Persia is a good example. It is a concession obtained years ago 
by the British in a corrupt and unconscionable way. Millions of 
pounds were spent in bribing officials. The concession was ex 
tremely favorable to the British, extremely unfair to the Persians. 
We were silent when England during recent years tried to force the 
concession on rebellious Persian governments. The British are 
thoroughly hated in the Middle East; and we, by supporting British 
policy there, have had some of that hate directed to us. 

Our fourth major error has been our belief that we could save 
the world from communism by dollars. We have wasted billions 
in that way and have little to show for it. Our vast expenditures 
in Asia have ended up largely in the hands of corrupt people. We 
have financed the causes of those who want to hold the people 
in serfdom. In doing so we have alienated the suppott of the 

In Summary 321 

masses. The depreciation of our prestige abroad has about kept 
pace with the depreciation of the dollar at home. 

It is ideas that will win, not dollars. Dollars are secondary. We 
have planned things pretty much in reverse. Our reports and proj 
ects call for vast industrial undertakings the installation of fac 
tories and plants in Asia and the development of its natural resources. 
We seem bent on trying to remake the East in our own image, to 
transform it from an agricultural to an industrial economy. That 
will eventually happen; but the process must be slow. Many other 
things must be done too. While industrialization should move ahead, 
it must be done cautiously and on a small, selective scale. There 
will be tragedy in the other course. For example, Asia has the cheap 
est labor market in the world. Trade unionism there is in its infancy. 
Skilled labor will not receive more than ninety cents or a dollar a 
day. The labor supply is almost unlimited. Factories built in these 
cheap labor markets, where no real trade unions are known, could 
easily be the greatest sweatshops in the world. They would tend 
to drag down the free workers of the world by cheap competition. 
Resulting tariff barriers would only increase the friction between 
East and West. The vast industrial projects for Asia which one hears 
discussed in Washington, D.G, would merely quicken the tempo of 
exploitation of the masses and hasten the day when the Com 
munists take over. 

It is frequently said that even if industrialization cannot be 
hurried, modernization of farms can be. And so great efforts are 
made to introduce mechanized farming in Asia. Even that is not 
so simple as it sounds. The introduction of modern methods of 
agriculture to Asia has been too fast. It already has become a proj 
ect wasteful both of American dollars and of the expectation of 
the peasants. 

In August, 1950, 1 found in Kurdistan (northwest Persia) $500,000 
worth of farm machinery owned by one large operator that was idle 
for lack of spare parts; and even if the spare parts had been available 
there were no mechanics to do the repair work. No spare parts 
could be obtained, because there was no foreign exchange to buy 
them. Near Kermanshah, Persia, I saw dozens of water pumps, used 
for irrigating sugar beets, that were out of commission because some 
simple part had worn out. Since no parts were available, the crops 
were jeopardized. At Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, India, as previously 

$22 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

noted, I saw 500 tractors, 375 of which were laid up for repairs 
and spare parts. When farm machinery is sold in this part of the 
world, trade schools for mechanics to service the machines must 
also be established; and plants to manufacture parts must often be 

The place to start reform in Asia is with the land. The basic illness 
there is the vicious tenancy system. All other ills stem from that. 
No other project will be worthy of American aid unless it is tied to 
that. Land reform above all else is the starting point for launching 
the counterrevolution against communism. No program of reform 
can long succeed unless land reform is first carried through. That 
is the philosophy of the present Shah of Persia who recently dis 
tributed Royal Lands to the peasants in 4,000 villages. As the Shah 
told me, "The pride of land ownership inculcated and the incentive 
given to increased production will raise the standard of life of the 
people and prove a bulwark against any political infiltration." 

American dollars can help on a small scale in some phases of the 
land reform problem. American capital obviously cannot finance 
the redistribution of the land. That must be done by each country, 
either on the installment basis as India is doing it, or as Ireland did 
it. The plight of Ireland s tenants was perhaps as severe as anything 
one sees in Asia. At least Jonathan Swift over two hundred years 
ago painted a dismal picture in A Modest Proposal. I stopped in 
Ireland in 1949 to see what had been done, and learned that the Irish 
had solved the heart of the problem without the use of much cash. 
Under the Land Act of 1923 the tenant got the land through the 
agency of a Land Commission and the landlords got Land Bonds 
(later guaranteed as to principal and interest by the British govern 
ment). They turned out to be one of the best investments in Ireland, 
the bonds going to a premium. 

There is one clear way in which our dollars can be put to a con 
structive use in Asia. We would, for example, revolutionize much of 
the Middle East if we threw our weight behind the right kind of 
TVA along the Tigris and Euphrates. If we insisted, as a condition 
of our financial help, that every farm that is watered by the project 
be owned by the man who works it and that no man own more than, 
say, thirty acres, there would be the start of a peaceful but powerful 
revolution in the Middle East. A basis would have been laid for 
public health projects, modern villages, good schools, and all the 

In Summary 323 

other things that raise the standard of living of people. Iraq, which 
has a population of three and a half million, could on this principle 
support forty million; Persia, which has sixteen million people, could 
support one hundred million. 

It is ideas and projects such as the TVA that will start Asia on 
the road to freedom. A TVA that is the instrument for making 
every farmer a landowner will be remembered throughout all time 
and identify America with the force that would influence Asia in 
the democratic way of life. 

America is fitted by tradition for directing and guiding revo 
lutions. We won our freedom by revolution and set the example 
which today inspires the peasants of Asia. We cannot remake 
the world in our image; but we can help those who are seeking an 
escape from squalor to find alternatives to communism. We cannot 
do it by talking democracy and peace. We can do it only by making 
our foreign policy understandable in terms of the aspirations of these 
people. Our foreign policy must be specifically related to the 
land problem. We should be behind those who sincerely have 
as their motto "the man who works the land should own it." If 
that were our announced policy, if that were the word that went 
out from all our embassies and legations, the masses of Asia would 
soon be on a basis of understanding with us. 

This would not be a new form of imperialism. America would 
not be dictating policies to governments. But every government 
would know where the weight of America s influence would be and 
the kind of projects that would enlist American support. They 
would know that if American dollars were to be obtained for the 
financing of any projects, those projects would have to serve the 
interests of the masses. The implementation of that kind of political 
program would be relatively easy. The Philippines, already the 
showcase of Asia, could be transformed into a healthy, prosper 
ous democratic community. 

This kind of foreign policy would have far-reaching conse 
quences. It would mean that in every capital of Asia American 
sympathy and understanding would be behind the liberal, progres 
sive group s, whose mission it is to break the hold of the feudal 
system. Groups who enjoyed the prestige of that kind of American 
support would be in a strong political position. Asians do not want 
any foreign domination American, British, or Russian. They do 

324 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

not want any form of imperialism. They are passionately opposed to 
becoming colonies either of the West or of Russia. But by and 
large they do want friendship and co-operation with the western 
world. They want the West as a partner in many of their under 
takings. They want the help of the West as an ally. They have a 
fear of any dependency on Soviet Russia, whose imperialistic designs 
on Asia are more ominous than those of any foreign power in 

A foreign policy of a positive political character for Asia would 
have tremendous military value. We cannot possibly defend with 
our armies the wide perimeter stretching from Japan to Morocco. 
We have not the men to do it. Anyone who has seen the jungles 
of Malaya and the swamps of Indo-China knows we could easily 
lose our armies in them. Soviet Russia s military strategy takes this 
into account. She does not plan to dissipate her own strength in 
that way. Behind her military strategy is a program of political 
action. Her aim is to get native Communists in control of every 
country. Then these countries will become neutral in a pro-Soviet 
sense or raise local armies (Korean style) to fight her battles for 
her. We cannot defeat those tactics by military action, for we are 
too small and the military theaters are too scattered. We can counter 
that military strategy only by a program of political action of our 

An Asian foreign policy of the character I have described will 
require faith and courage courage born of reason, not of hysteria, 
not of fear. 

i. It means that we must give up the idea that the world can or 
ought to be standardized to American specifications. Bullets will not 
kill communism. The world will for a long .time have great numbers 
of Communists in it. Moreover, the new world that the Asians desire 
to create and which fits them best is not of the architectural design 
that we would choose for ourselves. The new world of Asia will 
be different from ours; it will have a large element of socialism 
which we would not want for ourselves. We must learn tolerance 
of new ideas. We must remember that a distinctive characteristic of 
the universe is diversity. The world will not be remade in the 
image of the West. All the legions of the empires failed and their 
failure is today s problem. 
2. There are tremendous tensions inside Asia tensions of religion, 

In Summary 

traditions, political ambitions, nationalism. Those tensions will sur 
vive even if communism sweeps nation after nation into its orbit. 
Many of the tensions are in fact created by the perilous propinquity 
of Russia by the nearness of Russian armies and planes, by the 
appetite of the Soviets for power. Soviet expansion does not neces 
sarily mean Soviet supremacy. The Asian imperialism which the 
Soviets are building can be made the source of Soviet weakness, 
rather than Soviet strength. Asia needs the West if she is to escape 
the tyranny of the Soviets and a complete dependency on the 
Soviet economy. The conflicts between what Asians want and what 
the Soviets are trying to get from them are so great that statesman 
like management can make Soviet expansion in Asia Russia s greatest 

3. America, the nation of surplus food, must find ways and means 
of sharing her surplus with the world. Gandhi said, "It is the funda 
mental law of nature, without exception, that nature produces 
enough for our wants from day to day; and if only everybody took 
enough for himself and nothing more there would be no pauperism 
in this world; there would be no man dying of starvation." That 
idea will not be denied. It presses for acceptance in Asia where 
millions have died from starvation since World War II ended. 
We must enter the Asian markets (particularly India) with our 
food and expend our surplus there, obtaining in return where possi 
ble raw materials which we need. But the important thing is to send 
our surplus food into these deficit areas, expecting primary payment 
in the good will which we sorely need in that part of the world. 

Our aim should be the development of partners for world peace 
rather than customers for our surplus goods. If we take the contrary 
course we will deny the American ideal and harm ourselves far more 
than Soviet propaganda can ever do. 

4. The greatest heritage that America has in the East comes from 
our teachers and missionaries. Through our educational emissaries 
the people of Asia came to know the warm and understanding heart 
of America. We have had no more important ambassadors of good 
will in the Arab world than Dr. Bayard Dodge and Dr. S. B. L. 
Penrose of American University in Beirut. None did America 
higher service in Persia than Dr. Samuel M. Jordan, who taught 
for about forty years in Tehran. The primary political task of 
Soviet Russia in China after the fall of the Nationalist government 

326 Strange Lands and Friendly People 

was to liquidate one hundred years of American friendship and 
good will, built largely through our cultural ties, including our 

If we are to save Asia from communism, we must by deed as 
well as by word show her people our true Christian attitude. We 
must emulate the teacher and missionary, identify ourselves with the 
aspirations of the peasants, and help them by kindness and under 
standing achieve a fuller life. We must go to the East with humility 
not condescension, mindful of our debt for the great cultures which 
the East has given us. 

5. We Americans have been used to quick, clean-up jobs of 
critical situations. By temperament we want things accomplished 
in a hurry and to have a project over and done with. The political 
program of which I speak is long term; it cannot be done quickly. 
We need patience to see it through; the wisdom to nurture it in our 
time and to make another generation the stewards of it. 

6. Security for the United States and the other democracies 
will be found not in the balance of armed might but in the balance 
of political power. We will be secure only when the bulk of the 
world is aligned on the democratic front. That is the reason for 
the tremendous urgency of a political rather than a military pro 
gram in Asia. 

Such a program to be successful must be geared to the hopes 
and aspirations of the masses of the people. Dollars and guns cannot 
build these alliances. Only faith and understanding and ideas that 
are liberal in their reach will create the conditions under which 
democratic influence will flourish. Neither wealth nor might will 
determine the outcome of the struggles in Asia. They will turn on 
emotional factors too subtle to measure. Political alliances of an 
enduring nature will be built not on the power of guns or dollars, 
but on affection. The ties that will hold the people of Asia close to 
each other and close to us will be of that character. We must work 
at that level, if we want to be partners in the exciting Asian history 
that is about to be written. We must, in other words, go to the East 
with warmth and understanding. The rewards will be bitter if we 
continue to go the other way. It is clear to one who travels the 
villages of Asia that if we continue to play the role we have played 
in the last five years, these people will become united in one great 
crusade a crusade against America. Nothing would be more need- 

In Summary 

less, nothing more tragic. Yet the anti-American attitude in Asia 
continues to mount -for to Asians America is too powerful to co 
operate with them and too rich to understand them. 

j. We Americans tend to judge people by their standard of living 
and to consider "backward" all who do not know our conveniences, 
such as plumbing, refrigerators, window screens, and electricity. 
Those are false yardsticks. The important criterion is not the rate 
of progress of a people but the standard of life which its leaders 
espouse and to which they aspire. Yet even then it is easy to judge 
harshly. Democracy as we know it will take generations to de 
velop in Asia. After all, we ourselves are not yet perfect. Democracy 
cannot be imposed from without or from above; it comes from 
within a people as a result of education and experience. We must 
learn tolerance of crude beginnings and not be harsh in our judg 

The people of Asia want the good things of life; but they also 
want freedom and justice. The desire for freedom and justice is 
indeed the powerful motive force behind the revolutions that sweep- 
Asia. Communism does not offer that standard of J/f^.jWe of the 
West have it for ourselves and can help Asia attain it. Freedom 
and justice are indeed our missions in life. If we forget that, we will 
never receive the verdict for civilization. 


Jbana River (see Barada River) 
Lbdullah of Trans- Jordan, 240, 251- 

Qasim Samsam, 135 
Shanab, 191 
Acropolis, 1 66 
Adonis, River of, 236 
Vfcheh, 88, 89, 92 
*dka, 236 

^fshar, General, 135 
Vgha Mohammed, 107 
Gholi, 114 
Khan, 100, 101 
Vhwaz, 136 
\koura, 178, 181, 185 
AI-Hakim, 198-199 

Albania, proximity of, to Greece, 7 
Ali-Goudarz district of southern Per 

sia, 37 

All India Trade Union Congress, 297 
Allen, George, 73 
Almora, 310, 311 
Amar Khan, 58, 59, 73-83, 86, 130 

children of, 74-75 
Ambedkar, B. A., 308 
American University at Beirut, 167- 

169, 251, 325 
Amir Ahmadi, 106-109 
Amir Bahman, 114 
Amman, 196, 205, 248, 252, 253 
Andimeshk, 1 24 
Anti-Lebanon Mountains, 164, 180, 

193, 226, 227, 229 
limestone of, 165 
Anti-Zionists, 195 
Antioch, 162 
Arab civilization, 162 

Arab world, Soviet propaganda in, 

191-192, 195 
Arabia, 216 

Arabs and Jews, 253, 266 
Ararat, Little, 67 
Ararat, Mount, 38, 56, 66-68, 77 
Aras River, 33, 37, 38, 68 ^ 
Araxes River (see Aras River) 
Ardalan Kurds, 86 
Argob, 196 
Aristotle, 16 
Armenia, 30-37 

history of, 31-32 

and Persia, contrasts of, 33 

Soviet, 32-37, 65 
Armenians in Persia, 33-37 
Aronson, Jacob, 277 
Arslan, May (see Djumblatt, May) 
Arslan family, 212 
Arz-ar-Rubb, 185 
Ashdot Yacov, 282 
Askar Abad, 70 
Athens, 166 

Communist underground in, 8-10 
Atrashes, 203, 204 
Attica, 7-10 

Ayios Epiktetos, Cyprus, 23 
Azerbaijan, 30-31, 38-50 

nistory of, 39 

landlords of, 45-47 

people of, 30-40 

Persian Army in, 43, 45 

Russian, 31 

Russian invasion of, 40-42 

Russian political measures in, 42-50 

winters in, 46, 47 



Azm, palace of, gardens in, 193 
Azna, 95 


Baalbek, 226 

Babbila, 234 

Babylon, 164 

Baghcheh Jough, 67 

Baghdad, 161, 162, 164, 223 

Bahador, Rustam, 100 

fehai faith, 51 

Baharvand Lurs, 100 

Bahman Khan, 126, 127, 149 

Bakhtiari, 34, 5 2 > 5* 55. iH-i 2 9, l & 

151, 156 

faith of, 122-123 
horses of, 126 
migrations of, 124-125 
stopping of, by Reza Shah, 125* 


needs of, 127-128 
Baku, 43, 5 

Barada River, 226, 227, 229 
Barazi, Muhsin, 104, 195 
Barzani, Mulla Mustafa, 59, 60, 65, 66, 

70, 71, 77 

Bashan, plains of, 186, 196, 197, 200 
Basra, 161, 164, 242 
Bazaars in Damascus, 230 
Bedouins, 197. 22 3~ 22 7> 2 54 2 55 
Beersheba, 280, 286 
Behbehan, 152 

Beirut, 161, 166-169, 207, 226 
Bek-ed-Dine, 210, 211 
Beit Yitzhak, 283, 284 
Ben-Gurion, David, 267 
Bhatnagar, S. S., 3^ 
Biranavand Lurs, 100 
Bishara, Yacoub, 176-178, 187 
Biskinta, 169, 170, 173-175 
Boar hunt, 150 
Boqaa Valley, 163-164, 188 
Boshi Sen, 311-313 
Bozorg, Agha, 139 
Bsharreh, cedars of, 185, 186 
Btekhnay, 210 
Bukan, 84-86 
Bulgaria, 14 

proximity of, to Greece, 7 
Bushire, 135, 136, J44 

Caller, Yetta, 281 

Cardozo, Justice Benjamin, 200, 267 

Carrol, Father, 264, 265 


Cascade Mountains, 181 
Caspian Sea, 87 
Cedars of Lebanon, 185-187 
and Solomon, 183-184, 186 
Christ, Jesus, 232-233, 256-258 
derides, John, 28, 29 
Cohn, Herman, 266 
Committee of Kurdish Youth 


Communist Manifesto, i 
Communist tactics, in Azerbaijan, 42 
among Kurds, 56-60 
in Persia, 3-4 

Communists, in Cyprus, 23-29 
in Greece, granting of equality to 

women by, 12-13 _ 
political program of, in Middle 

East, 2-5 

(See also Soviet propaganda) 
Conrad Creek Trail, Washington, 181 
Conservation, soil, 181-183 
Constantinople, 163 
Cooper, Merian C., 124 
Crusades, 219-222 

Cypriots, political grievances of, 22 
Cyprus, 19-29, 1 66^ 
British, reforms in, 21-22 
fellow travelers in, 28-29 
Mule Pack Transport Regiment of, 

in British Army, 23 
Ottoman law on tenures in, 20-21 
Party Central Committee of 23 
politics in, 25-26 
Socialist party of, 29 
Cyprus Mining Corporation, 23 
Cyrus, 51 

Dalvand Lurs, 100 
Damascus, 37, 161, 164, 191, i93 1 9^ 
197, 200, 216, 223, 225-228, 234 

bazaars in, 230 

public health and education in, 234- 

2 35 

St. Paul in, 230-231 
Dan, 280 
Darashori tribe, 138 

horses of, 145 
Darazi, 199 
Darius, 51 
Dashtistan, 152 

Dayan, Col. Moshe, 262-264, 283 
Dayan, Ruth, 262, 283, 284 
Dead Sea, 233, 280 


Death and torture, Asian ways of, 106- 


Debukri Kurds, 84, 85 
Demavend, 87, 89 

Democrat party of Kurdistan, 58-59 
Dimitros, 16-17 
Direkvan Lurs, 100 
Divan Darreh, 56, 57, 59 
Djehanbani, Gen. A. M., 88-91 
Djumblatt, Kemal, 207-215, 242 
Djumblatt, May, 207, 208, 210, 243 
Djumblatt, Nazira, 212, 242-243 
Djumblatt family, 207, 212, 213 
Dodge, Bayard, 325 
Dog River, 163 
Doueihy, Saliba, 165 
Douglas, Bill, 169, 177, 200, 201, 205, 

210, 220, 221, 252, 256 
Druzes, 197-212 

history of, 198-200 

Populist movement of, 203-204 

religion of, 199 
Dugh, 132 

Edessa, 162 

Egypt, land in, 188 

Ein Karem, 264-266 

El Moukhtara, 207, 208, 210-212 

Elburz Mountains, 38, 87-91 

Emir Bachir Shahab, 211 

Engels, Friedrich, i 

Enosis, 22 

Greek Orthodox church vs. Com 
munists on, 22 
Enzeli, 118 
Epic of Kings, 51 
Erosion, 98, 179-184, 190 
Euphrates River, 164, 190 

Fard, Sol, 174, 178 

Faris Usuf Hajj, 169 

Farmers Federation in Israel, 273 

Farming, methods of, in Middle East, 


Fars, 133, 134 
Feili Lurs (see Lurs) 
Fellow travelers in Cyprus, 28-29 
Fereydoom, 114 
Fertile Crescent, 253 
Firdausi, 51 

Foreign policy for Asia, 3 I 5-3 2 7 
FoimdatioTis of Lemnism, ^ 
Franks, Sir Oliver, 192 

Free French, 161 

Freedom, 28 

French Foreign Legion, 204 

Galilee, Sea of, 220, 282, 283 
Gandhi, Mohandas, 218, 295, 298, 209, 

3<>5, 309, 3 2 5 
Ganges River, 291, 310 
Gardens of Middle East, 193 
Gazelle hunt, 148-149 
Gelich, Batman, 87 
George VI, Supreme Patriarch Ca- 

tholicos of Armenian church in 

Russia, 32-33 
Geshur, 196 
Ghashghais, 52, 54, 55, 114, 117, 133- 


agriculture of, 151-152 

culture of, 155-159 

five classes of, 143 

horses of, 145-150 

migrations of, 138, 152-153 

nomads, 138-139 

rebellion of, 133-137 

women of, 155, 158, 159 
Ghazanfari, Ali Mohammed, m, 113 
Ghazanfari, Mohammed Hossein, in 
Ghorban, Dr. Sabih, 128 
Gibran, Kahlil, 174 
Gilbert, Elon, 212, 232 
Goats, 170-181 
Goren, Ahron, 286 
Grady, Henry, 3, 8 
Grady, Mrs. Henry, 10 
Grammos area of West Macedonia, 


Grass, 124 
Greece, 6-18 

coffee shops in, 16 

new, dream of, n 

Union with (see Enosis) 

women of, 12-15, 23 
Greek Army, 7-8, n 
Greeks as enthusiastic vacationists, 8 
Guerrillas, Greek, 6-8, 11-17 

tactics of, 6 

women, 12-15 
Guyum, 152 

Habbaniya, 164 
Hadeth, 160-171 
cedars of, 185 
Hafiz, 51 


Haifa, 283 

Hamdans, 199 

Hamzi el Darwishe, 203, 204 

Harsin, 95 

Hattin, 220-222 

Hayat Davudi tribe, 135 

Hazhar, 61 

Hedavand Kurds, 91-94 

Helena, Queen, 162 

Hermon, Mount, 164, 198, 220, 228, 


Hieman, 61 

Himalayas, 310311, 313 
Hinduism, 312-313 
Histadrut, 276-279 

Workers Bank of, 278-279 
Horses, of Bakhtiari, 126 

of Darashori tribe, 145 

of Ghashghais, 145-150 
shooting contests on, I49-I5& 

of Persia, 126 
Hyderabad, land reform in, 307 

Ibex, hunting of, 130-131, 147-148 
Hkhanizadeh, Abdollah, 84-86 
Ilkhans, 54, 55, 120, 133, 134, 143 
India, 293-313 

and Qiina, 295-297 

color consciousness in, 295-296 

food problem in, 302-304 

health problem in, 304-305 

land ownership in, 306-308 

natural resources of, 305 

neutrality of, 295 

and Pakistan, 292, 309 

passion for independence in, 294 
Indian Administrative Service, 301- 


Iran (see Persia) 

Iranian-Soviet Cultural Relations So 
cieties, 58 
Iraq, 161, 164 

land in, 188 

Isfahan, 35, 115, 124, 135, 144, 241, 246 
Islam, Brotherhood of, 216-218, 245, 

Israel, 266, 267, 269-289 

co-operative villages of, 283-284 

economic organizations of, 273-279 

Farmers Federation in, 273 

Jahanshah, 114, 135 
Jalali Kurds, 70 

Jami, 51 

Jamil Abou Assali, 204 
Javanrudis Kurds, 85 
Jebel el Druze, 196, 197, 199, 200, 203, 
204, 208 

(See also Druzes) 
Jenkins, Gen. Reuben E., 8 
Jericho, 233 

Jerusalem, 162, 196, 219, 221, 222, 266, 
267, 270 

historic spots of, 256-261 
Jewish National Fund, 275-276, 278 
Jews, and Arabs, 253, 266 

in Palestine, 262-263 

(See also Israel) 
Jordan, Samuel M., 325 
Jordan Valley, 220, 232 
Judea, Mountains of, 270, 280 
Jumna River, 310 

Kaber Essit, 234 

Kadkhodas, 55, 120, 127 

Kaftar, 158 

Kajar dynasty, 52, 54, 85, 95 

Kalantars, 55, 120, 127, 129, 136, 137, 

141, 156, 157 
Kalar, Mount, 130-132 
Kamen, Mount, n 
Kamyaran, 46 

Kashgan River, 105, no, 113 
Kaur, Rajkumari Amrit, 304 
Kazerun, 135 
Kazi, 74, 76 
Kefar Giladi, 281, 282. 
Kefar Monash, 285 
Kefar Warburg, 283, 284 
Kermanshah, 56, 95, 98, 100, 114 
Khadejeh Bibi, 155 
Khalil Yusuf, 169 
Khan, Genghis, 52 
Khans, 55, 79, 97, 120-122, 138, 131 

142^, 143, 152, 156 
Khayyam, Omar, 51 
Khersan, 145 
Khorram-shahr, 118 
Khorramabad, 95, 96, 99, 101, 103-10 

no, in, 113 
Khosrov, 134 
Khoy, 4, 38, 41, 46 
Khuzistan, 124, 127, 145 
Kibbutz, 274-275, 281-286 
Komisarov, Daniel, 43 



Koran, 1-2, 62, 63, 80, 82, 135, * 6 > 

218, 239, 248, 249 
Kozani on Fiorina Plain, prison camp 

at, 11-15 

women in, 12-15 
Krai, 204, 205 
Kroll, Elizer, 281 
Kuhdasht, 110-113 

Kuh-i-Dina range of Zagros Moun 
tains, 151 

Kumela, 57, 5 8 , 73, 76 
Kurdish People s Government 59 
Kurdistan, 46, 5 6 - 6 4> 86, 9 8 , l6 4 
Democrat party of, 58-59 
and Treaty of Sevres, 5<* . 

Kurdistan-Soviet Cultural Relations 

Society, 58 

Kurds, 52, 54, 55, 60-64, 121, 130 
adultery among, 80 
Ardalan, 86 . 

and Communist tactics, 56-60 

dances of, 77~7 8 

Debukri, 84, 85 

Hedavand, 9 I ~4 

Jalali, 70 

Javanrudis, 85 

Milani, 70 

nationalism of, 70-71 

radios of, 75~7 6 

Shakkak, 78-79 

and Soviet Russia, 65-66, 7 

welcoming ceremony of, 72 
Kvutsat Saad, 286, 287 
Kyrenia, 25 

Land ownership, in India, 306-308 
system of, in Middle East, 188-191, 
193-194, 203 

Landlords, 269-270 
of Azerbaijan, 45-47 
of Maku, 68-70 

Landu, Leah, 284-285 

Laqlouq, 169, 171* *75-*77 

Lar, 112, 113 


camp at, 15-18 
Laristan, 152 
Lavrion, lead mines at, 9 
Lebanon, 161-189, 195* W Io8 > 20 7 

cedtts of (see Cedars of Lebanon) 
corruption, in, 173 

Lebanon Continued 

land in, 188, 189 . 

Progressive Socialist party in, 208- 

200 244 
Lebanon Mountains, 164, 165, 168, 180, 

207, 226 

limestone of, 165 
Lenin, Nikolai, 30 
Limassol, 25 
Lipsitz, M. D., 284 
Luban, Abu, 273 
Luristan, 95, 9 8 , i4 I2 4 

Butcher of (see Amir Ahmadi) 

paved highway through, trouble 

about, 104-106 

Lurs, 52, 54, 55, 95-^3. IJ 3 I2I I2 ^ 
127, 136 

adultery among, 80 

Baharvand, 100 

Biranavand, 100 

Dalvand, 100 

Direkvan, too 

Greater (see Bakhtiari) 

Mir Baharvand, 100 

Papi, loo, 101, no 

poverty of, 97, 98, *>, 102-105 

Sagavand, 98-99 

Tarhan, 110-113 

Tulabi, 96, loo 

MacArthur, Douglas, 320 
Macedonia, 7, 8, 11 

West, lo-ii 
Macronisos Island, n 
McSoud, Clovis, 30 
Mahabad, 57-61, 63, 65, 73. . 8 4 
Kurdish Republic at, Russian-spon 
sored, 134 
Majid, 114 
Majlis, 117, "8 
Maku, 63, 66-71, 85 
landlords of, 68-70 

Maku River, 66 

Malay er, 95 

Malek Mansour, 133, i3 6 > W I 44 
147, 1491 J 5 1 59 

Mand River, 152 

Maragheh, 39 

Marx, Karl, i 

Mast, 92, 93 

Medes, 39 . 

Medical program at Shiraz, 128 



Messoria plain, Cyprus, 20 

Middle East, land in, 179 
squalor in, 232-233 

Migrations, of Bakhtiari, 124-125 
bribery of Persian Army in, 139-141 
of Ghashghais, 138, 152-153 

Milani Kurds, 70 

Miner, Mr. and Mrs. Robert G., 8 

Mir Baharvand Lurs, too 

Mirdad, 174 

Moab, land of, 186, 247-248, 269 

Moghan steppe, 45 

Mohammed, 216, 260, 261 

Mohammed All Shah, 117, 118 

Mohammed Hossein, 133, 143, 144, 


Mohammed Mossadegh, 119 
Monk s Spring, 175 
Morteza Gholi Khan, 114-123, 126, 

13, 135 

constitution for Persia saved by, 

Moses, 1 86 
Moslems, 62, 218, 227-229 

vs. Christians, 227-229 

in Russia, 245-246 

Shiah, 52, 96, 156 

women, 227, 237-246 
Mosul, 161 

Mullah, 79, 97, 121, 156 
Mullah Nasr-ed-Din, 91, 154 
Murphy, Justice Frank, 267 
Musa Bey Alami, 233, 234, 318-319 
Musa Bey Nasser, 253 
Muzaifar-ed-Din, 117 

Naaman, 226 

Nadir Shah, 133 

Nahalal, 283 

Naimy, Mikhail, 174, 175, 178 

Naini Tal, 310, 311 

Najaf Gholi Khan Samsam-Os-Sal- 

taneh, 117, 118, 143, 144 
Namdan Plain, 147, 148, 150 
Nanda Devi, 310-312 
Narayan, Jiaprakash, 301 
Naroon, 88 

Nasser Khan, 133-137, 152 
Nathanya, 284 
Navaii, 46 
Nazareth, 283 
Near East Foundation, 234 
Neba Leben River, 179, 180, 186 

Nehru, Pandit Jawaharlal, 215, 

295-297, 299-301, 35, 307, 3 

government program of, 299-3 

on food problem, 303-304 
Nelson, Jack, 116 
Nicosia, 25-28, 166 
Nile River, 190 
Nira, 284 
Nizami, 51 
Noozhian, 101 
Nour-Abad, 47, 48, 96 

Omoei, Omar Agha, 70 
Onim, youth center at, 277 
Oregon, Persia, 34, 120, 125-128, 

i 5 8 

Ottoman Empire, 161 

Pahlavi, Reza Shah (see Reza S 
Pakistan, 218 

and India, 292, 309 
Palmyra, 226 

Papagos, Gen. Alexander, 8 
Papi Lurs, 100, 101, no 
Partassides, Costas, 25-26 
Parthenon, 16*6 
Pasha Atrash, Sultan, 197 
Patel, Sardar Vallabhbhai, 300 
Paul of Greece, 8 
Peacock Throne, 133 * 
Peloponnesus, 7 

Penrose, S. B. L., 167-169, 325 
Pericles, 16 
Persepolis, 51 
Persia, 51-55 

and Armenia, contrasts of, 33 
Communist policy in, 3-4 
contributions of, to Western ci 

zation, 130 
elections in, 111-112 
history of, 52-53 
tribes of, 52-55 
Persian Army, bribery of, in mi 

tions, 139-141 
Persian Communist party (see Ti 

Persian Gulf Command of Amer 

Army, 40, 105 

Persians, characteristics of, 53 
Pharpar River, 226 
Pishevari, Jafar, 43-45, 50, 57, 134 

reform program of, 44-45, 50 
Plato, 16 



Platres, 20 

Plour, 88 

Polo, Marco, 95 

Porsartib, 99 

Poseidon, ancient temple of, 9 

Poverty, in Arab world, 188-192 

(See also Lurs, poverty of) 
*Prasad, Rajendra, 300, 303, 309 

Preventive Detention Act, 298 

Prison camp, at Kozani on Fiorina 

Plain, 11-15 
at Larissa on Thessaly Plain, 15-18 

Problems of Leninism, The, 2 

Prodromes, 20 

Progressive Socialist party in Leba 
non, 208-209, 244 

Propaganda (see Soviet propaganda) 

Prophet, The, 174 

Qadisha Canyon, 185 
Qanat, 115 

Qashquais (see Ghashghais) 
Qavam-os-Saltaneh, 134-136 
Qazi Mohammed, 57-64, 73 

grave of, 63-64 

reform program of, 61-63 
Qishlaq, 139 

Raji Tannus Tannouri, 169-171, 173 

Ramadan, 252, 261 

Ramataim, 276 

Ramiz Abi-Suab, 208 

Ramot Hashavim, 283, 284 

Ramsar, 104 

Ratner, Col. Yochana, 220 

Razmara, Ali, 69 

assassination of, 3 
Red Cross, 247-250, 254, 255 
Refugee camp, at Shaieba, 251 

at Soueida, 201 

at Sukhneh, 247-255, 264 
Rehovoth, 270, 271 
Reiser,- Karl, 248, 249, 251, 254, 255 
Religion, of Druzes, 199 

in Middle East, 218, 227-229 
Resht, 43, 118 
Revivim, 286-287 

Reza Shah, 43, 52, 55, 59, 61, 67, 70, 
85, 95, 104-106, 125, 130, 133, 134, 
138, 141, 142, 152, 244 
Rezaieh, 39, 41, 58, 75, 78 
Rhazes, 162 
Rhodes, 166 

Richard the Lion Hearted, 222 
Richon Le Zion, 283 
Rish-safids, 55, 120, 127 
Robinson, Rev. William, 200 
Roosevelt, Franklin D., 121 
Rosenblum, Sonia, 284 
Royal Society, 86 
Russia, Moslems in, 245-246 
Russian Orthodox church and Com 
munism, 30 

Saadi, 51 

Safad, 283 

Sagavand Lurs, 98-99 

St. Stephen s Gate, 256, 260 

Saladin, 162, 221-222 

Sampson, Edith, 296 

Samsam, Morteza Gholi Khan (see 

Morteza Gholi Khan) 
Sanandaj, 86 

Sannine, Mount, 174, 175, 179, 180 
Saudi Arabia, 136 
Schur, Jacob, 282, 283 
Semirum, 143 
Sen, Boshi, 311-313 
Sen, Gertrude Emerson, 313 
Servas, Ploutis, 26 

Sevres, Treaty of, and Kurdistan, 56 
Shah Navwhy 51 
Shahabad, 118 
Shahbaz, 102, 113 
Shaieba Refugee Camp, 251 
Shakkak Kurds, 78-79 
Shalamzar, 34, 115-118, 120, 122, 125 
Sharifl, Amar Khan (see Amar Khan) 
Sheikh Meskine, 196 
Sheikh Saleem el Hashem, 171 
Shiah Moslems, 52, 96, 156 
Shjraz, 112, 128, 135, 139, 140, 152, 


medical program at, 128 
Siblene, private ownership of land 

in, 212-215 
Sidon, 207, 212 

Skouridiossa, copper deposit at, 23 
Smoira, Moshe, 267 
Solat-ud-Dowleh, 133, 134 
Solomon, and cedars of Lebanon, 

183-184, 186 
on goats, 180 
Throne of, 89 

Soueida, 30, 196, 197, 200, 204, 205 
refugee camp at, 201 

33 6 


Sounion, Attica, 8 

South Persia Rifles, 133 

Soviet propaganda, in Arab "world, 

191-192, 195 
in Cyprus, 22-23 
in Jebel el Druze, 200 
in Middle East, 1-2, 4, 30, 33 
radio, 4 

Squalor in Middle East, 232-233 

Stabler, Wells, 253, 254 

Stalin, Joseph, 2, 61, 191 

Stavrinides, Demosthenes, 28 

Stavrinides, Militza, 27, 28 

Stern, William, 284 

Stern Gang at Deir Yassin, 265 

Sufism, 51 

Sukhneh, 247, 248, 251, 266 
education in, 248-249 
refugee camp at, 247-255, 264 
undernourishment and dysentery in, 
2 5 

Sultan Pasha el Atrash, 203-205 

Sunni creed, 52 

Syria, 161, 198 

French rule in, 203, 204, 245 
land in, 188, 189 
and Russia, 194, 195 

Tabriz, 39, 42-46, 48-50, 57 

Russian-sponsored government at, 

University of, 44 
Tag-ore, Rabindranath, 306 
Taky Deen, Said, 197, 200, 202, 203 
Tandon, Purshottamdas, 309 
Tarhan Lurs, 110-113 
Tavakoli, Abdol Hossein, 100 
Tehran, 42, 43, 71, 87, 91, 92, 100, 
105, 108, 109, 117, u8 T 125, 134, 
35* 137 

capture of, by Bakhtiaris, 118 
Tel Aviv, 270 
Thessaly, 7 

Thomas, Lowell, Jr., 157 
Throne of Solomon, 89 
Tigris River, 164, 190 
Tito, 7 
Torture and death, Asian ways of, 


Transcaucasian Railroad, 39, 46 
Trans-Caucasian S. S. Federative Re 
public, 31 
Trans- Jordan, 161, 205, 248 

Tripoli, 162, 163, 169 
Troodos, 20, 27 
Trott, Alan C., 136 
Tsaldaris, Constantin, 8, 10 
Tsaldaris, Mrs. Constantin, 10 
Tudeh party, 3-4, 43, 58, 93, 134- 

Tulabi Lurs, 96, 100 

United States Agricultural Miss 

190, 205 

Urban II, Pope, 219 
Urmia, Lake, 38, 60, 75, 78, 84 

Vakili, Mostafa, 68-69 

Valley of the Skull (Wadi Jmej), 

Van Fleet, Gen. James A., 8 

Varamin Plain, 91 

Venizelos, 16 

Vitsi area of "West Macedonia, 3 

Wadi Jmej (Valley of the Skull) 

Weizmann Institute, 270-271 

West, Dave, 178 

West, William, 169-172, 180, 238 

White Valley, 90-92 

William, Father, 254-255 

Women, in Cyprus, 23 

Druze, 208, 242-244 

Ghashghai, 155, 158, 159 

of Greece, 12-15, 23 

Kurdish, 61 

Moslem, 227, 237-246 
World Peace Congress, Perrr 
Committee of, Stockholm s 
of, 32-33 

Xenophon, 71 
Xerxes, 51 

Yarmuk, 216 

Yugoslavia, proximity of, to Gr< 

Zafari, Sanyieh, 234-235 
Zagros Mountains, 38, 52, 56, 

101, 151, 154 

Zayim, Husni, 194, 195, 253 
Zia-Ed-Din, Seyid, too 
Ziad Khan, 145, 149 
Zindasht, 85 

economic problems of, 81-82 

stay at, 73, 75-83 
Zoroaster, 39, 51, 91, 96, 157 
Zurayk, Costi K., 168